State officials give conflicting stories about cadet cheating investigation

Posted at: 03/11/2014 10:38 PM
Updated at: 03/11/2014 11:19 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

KOB Eyewitness News 4 is getting answers from New Mexico's law enforcement officials after our investigation uncovered allegations of cheating at the state's law enforcement academy.

On Monday, the spokesman for the Department of Public Safety told KOB Eyewitness News 4's Caleb James the allegations had been investigated by the New Mexico attorney general last year.

On Tuesday, the attorney general himself has a different version of events.

With two different stories, from two different departments, KOB went straight to state police chief Pete Kassetas for answers.    

"Mr. Jones has been giving us the answers before we take any of the tests," an April 2013 anonymous letter reads.

They are big allegations KOB broke Monday night.

An anonymous letter signed by cadets studying at New Mexico's Law Enforcement Academy.

It's written to the governor, and signed "A few of academy 185" -- a class that graduated in June last year.

"Can you please do something about this?" the letter reads.

The letter accuses academy director Jack Jones of encouraging cadets to cheat on exams.

"When did DPS first see this?" asked KOB's Caleb James, during an interview with DPS spokesman Tony Lynn.

"Was there a date on it? I don't even know," Lynn responded.

KOB showed the letter to Lynn on Monday. He told us, the claims were investigated.

"Actually the AG came in, attorney general's office came in, looked over the letter, talked to the class, gave the class their phone number -- the investigator gave the class his phone number -- and said 'Call me if there's anything you need to talk to me about,'" said Lynn.

KOB wanted to know what came of that investigation, and went straight to the source.

Attorney general Gary King said he did investigate the academy, but it was an entirely different cadet class. They had unusually high grades last year -- a story KOB also broke.

But as far these new allegations:

"With regard to current allegations of cheating I am not aware of our office having done any investigation on those, nor having done any investigation on the relationship of the executive director of the Law Enforcement Academy to any current allegations," said King. "I can't say I'm even conversent with what those allegations are."

KOB was getting two different stories, from two different government officials. So we called New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas.

Kassetas is at a training with other police chiefs. He spoke to us by phone from Washington D.C.

"I spoke to the AG investigator today and he told me that he spoke to every student, and I believe that's out of the 185th class," said Kassetas.

Kassetas says the AG investigator was in the room alone with those students and gave out his phone number.

"I'm still trying to confirm which class that was, if not both," said Kassetas.

Kassetas also says there's an investigation report from the AG's office -- one he'll make available once he reads it.

"I think the bottom line is, what you want and what I want is accurate information," said Kassetas. "I'm here to provide that when I have it certainly. I think I owe that to you and your listeners."

On Monday, Lynn said the law enforcement academy would put a hotline in place for cadets and instructors to report concerns anonymously.

Then, those reports would also be made available to the public.  

Kassetas on Tueasday said Lynn had not cleared that with administrators and there is now an ongoing discussion about whether the department can implement the hotline.

Governor Martinez's office is weighing in on KOB's investigation as well.

Her office says she takes these allegations seriously.

Here is her office's full statement:

"Allegations like these are always taken seriously, though they are harder to investigate when they are anonymous. The Administration received this letter more than a year ago. The allegations were investigated at the time, and there was no evidence that any of the allegations were true. Governor Martinez will work with in-coming Secretary Greg Fouratt to ensure that the Law Enforcement Academy continues to train New Mexico law enforcement personnel to the highest standards."