Rising Star

Last month, nine NYPD sergeants filed a federal lawsuit against New York City, claiming that last year’s lieutenant’s exam had been compromised by widespread cheating. A recent New York Daily News investigation found that cops may have been cheating on the exam for even longer.

According to the lawsuit, only 164 of the 2,401 sergeants who sat for the New York City Police Lieutenant’s exam on April 18, 2015 passed the test—about 6.8 percent. However, 48 percent of the 80 sergeants who took the make-up test on June 22 passed.

All nine plaintiffs sat for the April 19 exam. Court documents filed on their behalf include a litany of grievances as to the test’s administration:

  • “In a number of classrooms, during the exam, the proctor remained in the front of the room and did not walk around to observe the test-takers.”
  • “During the exam, the test-takers were permitted to leave the room to use the rest room without having to sign out of the room or sign in upon their return. There was no limit as to how many test-takers could be out of the room at one time.”
  • “Test-takers in the restroom were observed to be whispering among themselves regarding the ongoing examination.”

Also, the complaint alleges, in a number of classrooms, the windows were open, and “outside noises” made for “less-than-ideal situations.” Most damningly, however, answers to questions on the test were made available on the Rising Star message board, which hosts discussions about the promotion exams. This is what allegedly gave those taking the make-up test such an unfair advantage.

“Allowing officers who cheated and/or who disseminated information regarding the Lieutenants Exam’s questions or answer prior to the make-up exam (and have thus not shown to be qualified) to be promoted to lieutenant could endanger the lives of police officers working under them and the public at large, the complaint,” the complaint alleges. The plaintiffs seek to certify all sergeants who took the 2015 exam as a class.

“The simple question here is whether or not the NYPD wants to promote sergeants who cheated on an exam to get to the position of lieutenant,” one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, Randolph McLaughlin of the firm Newman Ferrara, said after the suit was filed. “We don’t believe that’s in the public’s interest... or in the department’s interest.”

It is possible that the issue predates the 2015 exam, however. The Daily News reviewed posts from as far back as 2011 that suggest the same kind of cheating alleged in the current lawsuit:

The posts occurred before sergeants unable to attend the initial exam on Oct. 30 — mainly due to religious reasons or military service — attended a makeup exam on Nov. 15.

Other sergeants posted their full list of 100 answers and cross-referenced them with at least 12 of their fellow sergeants.

“People are taking this exam THIS WEEKEND. Stop talkin bout questions unless you want to drop a few spots,” wrote another on the Rising Stars Promotions site, which is a school for officers taking promotion tests.

The makeup test takers indeed fared better.

Records obtained by The News show that in 2011 — the last time the exam was administered — 29% passed the initial test, and a whopping 65% passed the makeup exam.

“It’s amazing how none of these cry babies run and tell the paper that their are legit innocent test passers on the list... They just keep reporting lies.... Now that shows how desperate they are to screw us over.... Never once do they state we are the real victims,” one Rising Star board member wrote in response to the Daily News story. “Gotta watch your back from perps on the street trying to hurt you, as well as cops on this job that want you hurt. How sad is that?”