State Police Academy Cheating Probe Takes New Direction, Lamont Reacts


TwitterFacebookCopy LinkPrintEmail

MERIDEN – A new twist has emerged in an alleged cheating incident among recruits at the State Police Training Academy that are scheduled to graduate next month, and Gov. Ned Lamont has weighed in on the situation for the first time. 

Two weeks after the agency’s highest-ranking officer said he was nearly ready to make a recommendation to public safety Commissioner James Rovella on the recruits’ discipline, Colonel Stavros Mellekas said Thursday that he has decided instead to order an internal-affairs investigation into the matter.

“Based upon evolving information I felt that it was the most prudent course of action,” Mellekas told CT Examiner in an email. “Once this investigation is completed, I will review it and take action accordingly.”

Among Mellekas’ options are to recommend retraining or termination of the eight recruits accused of cheating on a written exam last month by opening a digital link to the test and working on it during a separate class before they were authorized. 

A recruit in the class of 62 trainees noticed the activities and reported them to academy staff. 

The matter was handed over to Mellekas after an investigation by the agency’s Termination Review Board, which he earlier said had already forwarded him its recommendation on potential discipline. 

Mellekas told CT Examiner on Feb. 2 that he expected to make his recommendation to Rovella by the end of that week.

On Thursday he would not elaborate in detail on what prompted him to delay that decision and open the internal affairs investigation. 

Asked for Lamont’s assessment of the incident and the police administration’s response to it in light of the class’ scheduled March 24 graduation, his office issued a one-sentence statement asserting, “The governor has confidence that the leadership of the Connecticut State Police will handle this matter appropriately.”

State police union Executive Director Andy Matthews said he believes an internal affairs probe of the matter is the best route to get to the truth.  

“It’s proper to do a thorough and fair investigation into this and internal affairs is the answer,” he said.

CT Examiner on Thursday also sought reaction to the incident and the prolonged investigation from the leadership of the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee that oversees the state police: co-chairs Rep. Maria Horn, D-Salisbury and Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, and ranking Republicans Rep. Greg Howard of Stonington and Sen Dan Champagne of Vernon.

Only Horn responded, saying that while the committee does not have direct jurisdiction over the matter, “All of the conversations I have had suggest that (state police) have taken the matter seriously and are responding in a methodical and appropriate way.”

Meanwhile, discipline is also pending against a member of the last recruit training class who was caught on video stealing a pistol-loading ammunition magazine last September from a gun shop in Newington that declined to press charges.

Information obtained by CT Examiner shows that Mellekas has proposed to Rovella that Trooper Romello Lumpkin be given a 10-day suspension and transferred from the state police barracks in Hartford to the Danielson barracks. 

A section of the agency’s website about the process for entering the training academy states that potential recruits are given a series of tests to gauge their physical and mental readiness for the rigorous, paramilitary-like training, which can last up to seven months. 

Among those tests are a polygraph or “lie-detector” that asks applicants a variety of questions about their background and behavior such as alcohol and drug use and any criminal activity. 

The website information also says that the polygraph will be used to assess the applicant’s “basic honesty and integrity.”

Photo is courtesy of the Connecticut State Police.

Steve Jensen

Steve Jensen was a journalist for 13 years with the Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer of Manchester before becoming a Communications Director for the State of Connecticut. Jensen covers politics and law enforcement for CT Examiner. T: 860 661-6404