MANHATTAN (CN) - Aspiring lieutenants have gamed the New York City Police Department's civil-service exams through a cheat sheet posted on a popular online message board, nine sergeants claim in a federal lawsuit.
On April 18, 2015, more than 2,400 sergeants filed into high school classrooms spread throughout Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan to take an exam for a promotion.
Sgt. Jonathan Blatt and eight of his comrades say that only 164 - or 6.8 percent of all test-takers - passed, but those who flunked the first time saw their luck suddenly improve upon reexamination.
Roughly 48 percent of the 80 sergeants who took the makeup passed.
That's because, between the two test dates, many police reviewed the answers on the department's online message board "Rising Star," according to a 13-page complaint filed on Thursday.
The lawsuit filed by sergeant's lawyer Randolph McLaughlin, from Newman Ferrarra LLP, reads a report from a poorly supervised grade school.
"Prior to sitting for the exam, cellphones and other electronic devices were not removed from the test-takers," the complaint states. "In fact, on at least one occasion, a proctor instructed test-takers who had a telephone to turn it off."
"In a number of classrooms," it continues, proctors would either take their eyes off the police or leave the room entirely.
If test-takers had to use the bathroom during the nearly seven-hour exam, they did not have to sign out of or back into the room, the sergeants say.
"Test-takers in the restroom were observed to be whispering among themselves regarding the ongoing examination," the complaint states.
Beyond "lax supervision," the sergeants say in their lawsuit that the "less-than-ideal" test settings included classrooms with "their windows open and outside noises were noticeable throughout."
"Furthermore, activities were being conducted throughout and outside of the high schools where the exams were being administered," the complaint states.
On Feb. 17 this year, New York's Department of Citywide Administrative Services published a list of 204 candidates who got passing scores, including the alleged cheaters, the sergeants say.
"Allowing officers who cheated and/or who disseminated information regarding the Lieutenants Exam's questions or answers prior to the makeup 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 states.
With officers set to be promoted on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer set a hearing date on Monday afternoon for the sergeants to show cause for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction delaying that date.
Sgt. Blatt said in a statement that he was "pleased" with the development.
"We filed this suit to protect the integrity of the promotion process, and hope that the court agrees with us," he said.
When asked to confirm an investigation within the department, the NYPD replied that it was "aware of certain issues that have been raised concerning the 2015 lieutenant promotional make-up exam."
"We have been in contact with DCAS and are reviewing these issues," the NYPD said.
Echoing this comment, a New York City Law Department spokesman emphasized: "All the claims will be reviewed."
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