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Pinellas Sheriff Fires 7 Recruits over Accusations of Cheating

Bob Gualtieri | Gualtieri | Pinellas Sheriff

The deputy recruits were terminated after it was discovered that they cheated on written and oral board exams and/or lied about their involvement in cheating, the sheriff says. One patrol deputy has resigned as a result of the investigation.

PINELLAS COUNTY – Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced Monday (Jan. 25) the termination of seven deputy recruits.

The deputy recruits were terminated after it was determined that they cheated on field training program written and oral board exams and/or lied about their involvement in cheating, Gualtieri said. A patrol deputy also resigned.

Fired were Darold Cook, Julia Hopkins, Joshua Mason, Thomas McDonnell, Bruce Ramos, Diana Shoemaker and Michael Walker. All were hired Nov. 9, according to Pinellas sheriff’s records. Deputy Eric Biddle resigned. He had worked for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office since Feb. 10, 2012.

The investigation began Jan. 21 when supervisors from the patrol field training program suspected that the deputy recruits may have cheated on their Phase I field training officer exams, Gualtieri said. Through the investigation, it was determined that seven deputy recruits obtained copies of the field training Phase I and Phase II written exams, as well as Phase I and II oral board exams. These copies were the actual exams upon which they were tested. Several of the recruits scored 100 percent on their Phase I exams and planned to use the material to cheat on their Phase II exams. Some deputy recruits lied when initially questioned about the issue, the sheriff said.

“Seven deputy recruits obtained copies of actual FTO exams, used the exams to their benefit, cheated and lied,” Gualtieri said. “We have nothing in the law enforcement profession without our integrity and there is no place for cheaters and liars in law enforcement and certainly not in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.”

It was also determined that Biddle, a field training deputy, improperly provided the exam material to the deputy recruits, Gualtieri said. Biddle resigned Monday (Jan. 25).

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