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Classes at college police academy suspended after breach of test security

Classes have been suspended at Rio Hondo College’s police academy and officials are being forced to rewrite questions on officer tests used statewide after someone obtained those test materials and put them in a study guide.

The state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training ordered that all future classes of trainees at the Rio Hondo academy in Whittier be suspended until it completes an investigation into a breach of test security.

Officials say that of the 122 trainees at the academy, 22 were being sponsored by regional police departments, which they were expected to join as officers.

“The test questions have gotten out of the secure environment, compromising the tests,” said Karen Lozito, a senior consultant for the state commission. “It means the questions are going to have to be rewritten, and that extensive process involves many experts.”

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She said the college is cooperating with the investigation, which is seeking to determine the extent of the breach. Lozito said she could not say how many different tests were involved.

“We recognize the serious nature of the suspension, regret its impact on our students and are working diligently with POST to resolve the issues,” the college’s president, Ted Martinez Jr., said in a statement.

Martinez apologized to regional law enforcement agencies for the suspension. “It is important to assure our regional public safety agencies that Rio Hondo College is committed to integrity in all facets of law enforcement training and preparation,” he said.

In an e-mail obtained by The Times, Joseph A. Santoro, dean of the justice programs and a former Monrovia police chief, said it was a part-time faculty member who discovered the breach of test security.

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According to Santoro’s e-mail to colleagues, an academy police cadet came to instructor Leslie Kelly and asked her to look at sample questions in a study guide because he thought they were incorrect. But after reviewing the guide and a computer disk, the instructor noticed the sample questions on the disk “mirrored official test questions developed by POST.”

Kelly reported it to Santoro, who informed the state commission.

Scott Pickwith, chief of the La Verne Police Department and president of the L.A. County Chiefs Assn., said chiefs across the county are closely watching the investigation.

“The L.A. County chiefs are deeply concerned about the allegations,” he said. “We have complete faith and confidence in POST’s investigation.”

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richard.winton@latimes.com


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