CLAY COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE PROMOTION EXAM INVALIDATED

PENDING PROMOTIONS PLACED ON HOLD

The content of the most recent promotional exam administered to the approximately 70 Clay County Sheriff’s Deputies striving to make the rank of sergeant or lieutenant may have been leaked in advance.  According to a report, and statements made by outgoing Sheriff Rick Beesler’s department along with quotes directly from incoming Sheriff-elect Darryl Daniels, apparently some deputies who took the test may have had advance knowledge of what was to be included on the exam.  Incoming Sheriff Daniels has stated that officers who received a promotion based upon this compromised exam will have to resume their former rank until a new test can be administered.  Taking off rank in the world of law enforcement or the military is not a small move.  While physically all the officer has to do is unpin his lieutenant bars on his collar or cut the sergeant stripes off of his sleeves, the amount of authority leaving the deputy coupled with a probable change in duty assignment is huge. If officers had been promoted, then demoted, one obvious change would be the officer’s pay reverting to the former, less paying position.  Promotional testing of police officers usually involves the hiring of an outside firm to develop, administer and score the written test.  Officers then usually go before oral review boards of higher ranking officers in their own department.  According to the news article, Sheriff Beesler is conducting an investigation.

“THE INTEGRITY OF THE RESULTS HAVE BEEN CALLED INTO QUESTION”

That quote is from, according to news media, a statement issued by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.  In other words, Sheriff Beesler must have concerns that some officers had advance knowledge of what was on the exam.  Some officers may have gained an unfair advantage over their fellow officers.  Perhaps the most qualified officers didn’t score as high as those who had the inside track on the questions.

“THE INTEGRITY OF THE PROCESS IS MOST IMPORTANT”

That’s a quote, according to news reports, of incoming Sheriff Darryl Daniels.  Incoming Sheriff Daniels also stated he was “disappointed to learn of the leak” due to the amount of time and effort officers devote into getting a good score. Daniels is further quoted, “if they truly want the promotion, they’ll do whatever it takes to apply themselves to do the same thing they did before to reach the position they did the first time.” This investigation is ongoing and this writer has no information on how that is proceeding.  With the outgoing Sheriff questioning the integrity of the test results and the incoming Sheriff questioning the integrity of the test process, it begs the question if any officers used the information to cheat.  If cheaters are uncovered, hopefully they will be removed from the department at a minimum.  This would preclude them from just retaking the test and “doing the same thing they did before” to gain an advantage over their fellow officers.

NO MENTION OF THE INTEGRITY OF THE OFFICERS

This writer’s position is that although the integrity of the test results(sheriff #1 concern) and the integrity of the process(sheriff #2 concern) are valid concerns, these are not the real integrity concerns.  The test results and the process, the integrity of both being questioned by top leadership, if compromised, could only have been compromised by someone knowing what was on the exam and some amount of officers who had that knowledge passed along to them.  The test results will probably never be public information; however, something was noted as being out of the ordinary.  If this test was compromised, it was most probably compromised by law enforcement.  Bottom line is that law enforcement cannot even trust their own.  The lack of integrity of the results and process can only be due to, as a perception at present, a lack of integrity by law enforcement.  Hopefully, any and all cheaters that happen to be uncovered are removed from sworn law enforcement.  If an officer would cheat on an exam to bypass his fellow officer careerwise, would he be above cheating, or doing “whatever it takes” to effect an arrest of a suspect or cheating on his attempts to create an honest affidavit for a warrant to submit to a judge? Also, it appears that the current Sheriff is conducting this investigation utilizing the department’s own integrity unit.  The public might question how a department that potentially  compromised test results and the testing process could conduct an impartial, uncompromised investigation of itself.

INTERVIEWS AND INTERROGATIONS

This above-mentioned investigation is probably going to involve quite a few deputies being interviewed by other deputies.  Many people nationwide are contacted by detectives as a routine matter and asked to grant an interview.  They may be actual witnesses to a crime, a crime victim,  someone with information that helps solve the crime, or a person of interest or a soon to be arrested suspect.  Many times police will just ask the person to come to the station and clear up the matter.  That, and many statements made by law enforcement during the interview,  do not have to be the truth. The police are actually allowed  by law to lie to those being interviewed. The Supreme Court has spoken on this issue in the case of Frazier v. Cupp.  From this writer’s years of deposing and cross-examining police officers under oath it can be said that officers are usually not taught how to lie to potential suspects as part of their initial academy training.  If anything, they are taught on the job by more seasoned officers.  Undercover narcotics officers, for example, must perfect lying, trickery, deception and role-playing to survive and make cases in a very dangerous duty assignment.  If called to an interview with law enforcement in North Florida be aware that the interview will almost always be recorded and the officer is allowed to lie to you.  Officers often attend training, at outside “institutes” on when to turn an interview into an interrogation. The purpose of the interview is to gain information from the suspect.  This interview is conducted in a series of questions in what can be called a journalistic fashion, usually nice and cordial.  When the officer switches over to the interrogation portion the questions typically are very narrowed down, leading questions using information the suspect just provided in the interview phase.  The sole purpose of the interrogation phase is a confession. The sole purpose of any confession is a conviction.

IF YOU ARE CONTACTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT

Commonly the police will contact people and ask them to come down to the station under the auspices of “just clearing this up so i can close my file.”  Most people have no reason to ever distrust the police and voluntarily submit to interviews.  Many times the officer will already have an arrest warrant in hand and the person walks in only to get arrested.  Saves time.  If the officer still gets the person to talk at that point, trying to talk the handcuffs off never works, usually provides damaging camera footage shown to juries later on, and,  nobody is unarrested.  The Forbess Law Firm, 904-634-0900, and most of the criminal defense firms in North Florida offer free consultations.  If you or someone close to you has been contacted by police your best bet is to remain silent, decline all interviews, speak to nobody about the matter and get in to see a experienced Duval, Nassau, Clay, Baker, Bradford or St. Johns County criminal defense lawyer.