State Trooper testing

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Newspaper story gives other side of trooper testing

By Billy Davis
A front-page story that published Sunday in The Clarion-Ledger included names of state troopers, several from Batesville’s Troop E, who are fighting charges that they cheated on promotion tests.

Fourteen troopers were disciplined following an internal investigation. Four troopers have retired while 10 others received 30-day suspensions and were demoted according to the story by Jerry Mitchell.

The story reports that nine troopers are appealing punishment by the Department of Public Safety, claiming they were punished unfairly. Troopers have used old tests as study guides for years, said Dennis Horn, an attorney from Madison who is representing the appealing troopers.

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“The people at the Highway Patrol knew about this, condoned it, and all of a sudden punished it,” Horn told the Jackson newspaper.

To back up that claim, Mitchell quoted from public documents submitted by Lt. Tim Douglas to the State Personnel Board. Douglas is from Batesville.

State troopers have received “study material” from other troopers since 1997, and Douglas wrote that he swapped test questions with a second state trooper, Shane Phelps. He is also from Batesville.

In the document, Douglas also claimed that one state trooper who received test materials was not questioned or disciplined by Internal Affairs but “another trooper was disciplined for having 10 questions.”

Douglas told The Panolian Monday he could not comment on his appeal over the suspension, adding that in Mitchell’s story, the reporter appeared to interview him for the story.

Mitchell explained he had used Douglas’s written comments to the personnel board and agreed he had not interviewed the state trooper.  

The Sunday story correctly stated that Mitchell used “documents filed,” referring to troopers’ statements to the State Personnel Board, which are public documents.

Mitchell’s story goes on to state that the Department of Public Safety refused to respond to the troopers’ claims that they were being unfairly punished, citing pending personnel hearings and possible litigation.
State troopers who were named in The Clarion-Ledger story include Captain Mike Wilkie, Lt. Thomas Burke, Lt. Gerry Crawford, Douglas, Lt. Randy Johnson, Master Sgt. William Foster, Master Sgt. Troy Travis, Master Sgt. Bryan Sullivant, Staff Sgt. Sedric C. Adams, Sgt. Juan Jones, Sgt. Ellis Smith, Cpl. Robert Hamblin, and Phelps.

Capt. Wilkie and Lt. Burke oversaw Troop E in Batesville. The newspaper story indicates they are not appealing their punishment.