Contact 5 uncovers case of dispatchers, deputies test cheating with Martin County Sheriff's Office
Dispatcher admitted to taking tests for 11 others
10:41 PM, May 10, 2013
8:11 PM, May 11, 2013
Stuart, Fla. - You've heard of cheating in the classroom but the Contact 5 Investigators have uncovered a cheating scandal in a 911 dispatch center.
It's a case you've never heard about until now involving one of the largest law enforcement agencies in our area.
Through public records request, NewsChannel 5 obtained personnel records and internal affairs audio tapes outlining a test cheating case involving 911 dispatchers and deputies in the Martin County Sheriff's Office. It's a case that should've reached the State's top law enforcement officials but didn't.
Every two years dispatchers and deputies across the state are required to take an online test. It's called a CJIS Certification Test and it puts their crime fighting skills to the test.
Back in 2009, when a Martin County dispatcher failed her test, records show she sent a text message to her boss stating why. She claimed a supervisor usually took the test for law enforcement officials.
An internal affairs investigation was opened and that Dispatch Supervisor, Rebecca Timmons, admitted to cheating during a recorded interview.
"I admit it," Timmons said to an internal affairs investigator. "I'm sorry for doing it and it will never happen again," she is heard saying.
Timmons claimed she took the test for not only another dispatcher, but eleven other law enforcement officials, from deputies to some of the department's longest serving sergeants.
"I just thought other people were doing it so I really didn't think it was a big deal," Timmons told the investigator.
Listen to the full audio interview with Timmons below.
The internal investigation back up the claims and records show the actions violated department policy and state law.
Former Sheriff Robert Crowder was the man in charge at the time.
"I'm the one where the buck stops, so they say," said the former Sheriff.
Former Sheriff Crowder said when he first heard about the investigation back in 2009, he thought someone was going to get fired over the ordeal and that everyone involved was going to be disciplined.
"When someone in this business shows a lack of integrity, they don't need to be working with us anymore. "
The Contact5 Investigators discovered that never happened. Dispatcher Timmons and the eleven other workers received their test certifications but none of the employees received any type of formal punishment. The case was closed without any disciplinary action being taken.
"How can a case just go closed, without any punishment?" Contact 5 Investigator Dan Krauth asked former Sheriff Crowder. He responded, "I did not take it to task because I was not aware that it was being overlooked that way. "
Krauth responded, "So you knew the investigation was taking place but you never asked ‘Hey, what happened to those deputies involved? What happened to that dispatcher?" Former Sheriff Crowder said, "Well, I was told it had been handled and with everything else going on I didn't take it upon myself and obviously looking back I probably should have. "
Not only was the case closed early, it wasn't reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as required. It's their test. An FDLE spokesperson said they have no record of the case being reported to the agency.
When asked why the case wasn't reported, former Sheriff Crowder responded. "That, I don't know because in our procedures it should've been reported. "
The former Sheriff said he relied on staff members under him to keep the job done.
"I'm disappointed and a little bit upset that I was let down, though I am not running away from the responsibility," said former Sheriff Crowder.
After the internal investigation was closed, dispatcher Timmons resigned but was rehired four months later. Her employment screening shows she had no disciplinary action on her record so there was no reason not to hire her back.
When asked about the investigation, dispatcher Timmons said "Really I have nothing to say to you," and closed the door of her home.
Current Sheriff William Snyder said he did not know about the investigation until he was contacted by NewsChannel 5. Sheriff Snyder wasn't with the department when it happened but he is the boss of most of the workers now.
"Knowing what you know now about these workers, would you hire them?" asked Krauth. "I would not hire somebody who I could not believe in to be an outstanding and upstanding employee with a good moral character," Sheriff Snyder responded.
"I think in total, the big picture, these are good employees and I feel comfortable with them being here," said Sheriff Snyder.
As for the tests, they now have to be taken on one particular computer that's monitored at the front of the dispatch room.
"I'm confident that they learned and they will not repeat this kind of action but how do I convince anyone else about that?" said former Sheriff Crowder.
No discipline or charges can be filed now because the state of limitations has run out.
A spokesperson for FDLE said they have had cases of what they call "misuse" reported from other counties but they can't state how many or where they're from because they don't keep track of them.
Sheriff Snyder appointed a new head of internal affairs when he became Sheriff.