Some Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies may have been looking for a shortcut up the chain of command.
Department officials have launched an investigation into allegations that some deputies cheated on the promotional exam this month.
In an unusual move, the agency announced the internal affairs investigation Thursday in a mass internal email, which was obtained by The Times.
"Regrettably, it has been brought to the Department's attention that there may have been some isolated attempts by individuals to gain an unfair advantage during the written examination for Sergeant," the email read.
Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore declined to say how many deputies are suspected of cheating.
He said the department made the unusual decision to announce the investigation to deputies in order "to let everyone know how serious we're taking it."
"This is just unacceptable," he said. "It's got to stop."
This isn't the first time the integrity of the agency's promotional process has been questioned.
A blue-ribbon commission that investigated allegations of violence in the county's jails reported last year that a perception existed within the department that campaign contributions drove promotions rather than merit.
And last year, The Times reported that a retired official said he was ordered by two top managers to manipulate the department's promotional process to benefit certain candidates.
The probe was launched on Monday, Whitmore said, and is expected to be wrapped up shortly.