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Feds Need To Investigate Police Exam Cheating Claims, Whistleblower Urges

 Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Lt. Nakia Fenner at Chicago Police Department headquarters in March
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Lt. Nakia Fenner at Chicago Police Department headquarters in March
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Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images

NORWOOD PARK — A whistleblower on Thursday asked investigators from the U.S. Justice Department to expand their investigation of the Chicago Police Department to include alleged cheating on the department's lieutenant's exam, DNAinfo Chicago has learned.

The whistleblower made the request for the expanded investigation as Justice Department officials began meeting with officers and department leaders throughout the city as part of their probe into the department, an audit sparked by the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald.

In December, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the feds would examine whether the department's use of force policies are applied unequally on the basis of race and ethnicity, violating the civil rights of Chicagoans. Federal investigators also are charged with looking into how officers who break department rules are held accountable.

Reporter Heather Cherone on the latest developments in the cheating scandal.

The whistleblower — who plans to meet with federal investigators again Friday — said he hopes a vigorous federal investigation into the cheating allegations — already the subject of probes — would reveal a "microcosm of everything that's wrong with the Chicago Police Department."

DNAinfo is not naming the whistleblower, a Police Department employee, who fears reprisals for filing complaints against the department's top brass.


Part of the department's woes stem from the fact the "wrong people are being promoted," leading to a lack of leadership, the whistleblower said he told investigators.

Three newly promoted lieutenants were named in an anonymous complaint made to the department's Internal Affairs Division that questioned whether Deputy Chief Eugene Williams shared "information that was privileged" about the most recent exam used to promote sergeants to lieutenants in a study group, according to a confidential police Internal Affairs report obtained by DNAinfo.

Williams is a "subject matter expert" who helped create the exam, documents obtained by DNAinfo show.

The privileged information, if shared by Williams with the study group that met at police headquarters, would give sergeants in the group an unfair advantage on the test, according to a confidential police Internal Affairs report obtained by DNAinfo.

The cheating probe helped derail Williams' chances of being promoted to police superintendent after he was being picked by the Chicago Police Board as one of three finalists for the top job, sources said.

Williams' study group included Lt. Nakia Fenner, who is engaged to newly minted Supt. Eddie Johnson, as well Lt. Maryet Hall, who is married to former First Deputy Police Supt. Al Wysinger, who retired last year, and Lt. Davina Ward, multiple sources told DNAinfo.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson, the city's watchdog, also is investigating the allegations, sources said.

The probe into the alleged cheating began in November 2014, more than nine months before the written portion of the lieutenant's exam was administered, after a police Internal Affairs investigator filed a complaint based on a tip from an anonymous officer.

Fenner, a Deering District lieutenant, told DNAinfo she "did not participate in any study groups" and denied knowledge of any investigation into cheating allegations.

Ward and Hall did not respond to messages left by DNAinfo.

Mayor Emanuel has vigorously defended his choice of Johnson to lead the department, saying the report by DNAinfo was part of a "game" that involved "innuendo and besmirching people's character."

Johnson has said he will handle the results of any investigation appropriately.

Laquan, 17, was shot 16 times by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. Van Dyke was charged with murder after a judge ordered city officials to release a dashcam video of the shooting.

When she announced the federal investigation, Lynch said the probe would focus on misconduct "within the Police Department," and promised to consult "a broad cross-section of community members, city officials and law enforcement" before reaching any conclusions. A separate federal investigation of Laquan's death is underway, Lynch said.

Emanuel has vowed to cooperate with the investigation, which comes as shootings have risen 80 percent since the start of 2016, according to information compiled by DNAinfo.

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