Dallas throws out sergeant promotion exam officers spent months preparing for
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The integrity of the test had been questioned after a police major who helped shape the exam also coached clients through a test-prep business

By Naheed Rajwani
The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — Dallas police officers who took a rigorous exam last year for a shot at being promoted to sergeant will have to try again later, officials said Tuesday.

The integrity of the test had been questioned after a police major who helped shape the exam also coached clients through a test-prep business. 

Officers must pass a civil service exam before being promoted to senior corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. The promotional process for the ranks of sergeant or lieutenant is often described as taxing and stressful. It includes a written exam and a test through an outside assessment center that many spend months preparing for.

Results from the test, which was offered in November, had been in limbo for several months while police investigated the assessment center portion of the promotional process.

Police Maj. LaToya Porter, who runs a test-prep business to help officers prepare for the sergeant exam, has been under investigation. 

She's accused of adverse conduct, creating a conflict of interest and interfering with the integrity of an administrative investigation and giving misleading and conflicting statements during an internal affairs investigation, Lt. Mike Igo told the Dallas Civil Service Board. Igo oversaw the investigation.  


Porter's attorney has said she did not give her clients an advantage over other officers taking the sergeant test. 

She remained on administrative leave Tuesday, and police said the internal affairs investigation tied to her remains open.

The civil service board, an independent board through the city, agreed Tuesday that police should void the results from the "unfair" November exam and offer another exam for officers vying for the sergeant rank.

Results from the written test will remain intact, police said.

"The facts behind this allegation: Major Porter had privileged access to all test material," Igo told the board during his briefing Tuesday. 

He said Porter met with the assessment center as a subject-matter expert about the same time she notified Dallas police of her affiliation with Rank & File Development Group, a consulting business she started with another officer.

She discussed police tactics and the rating criteria for the sergeant's test with the assessment center's staff, Igo said. Police found during their investigation that scenarios reviewed during the Rank & File sessions were similar to some of those on the test.

After the test, someone anonymously reported that Porter was engaging in "adverse conduct" while serving as an expert for the test and taking payments from 12 test-takers through her business, Igo said. The first session cost $180 and each follow-up session cost $90.

After Porter learned that someone was asking about her business model, Igo said, a law firm hired by her business sent a certified letter to clients reminding them that they had signed a waiver prohibiting them from disclosing any materials provided to them by the firm.

Police, however, managed to get their hands on the letter during their internal affairs investigation. 

Deputy Chief Scott Walton, who oversaw the personnel division at the time of the testing, said police have "grave concerns" over the integrity of the assessment center portion of the sergeant test.

Walton told the civil service board that the officers who used Rank & File should be allowed to retest because they didn't know about Porter's  involvement with the test.

 

"To keep them from that opportunity I think would be unjust, given the set of circumstances we understand them to be," Walton said.

Members of the civil service board cautioned police about the frustration that is likely to come from officers who weren't involved, but will have to take the test again.

"We don't want to take a black eye on this," board member Anita Childress said.

In the meantime, the promotional process for other positions remains on hold for officers.

It's unclear whether Porter is still a major within the Dallas Police Department. Chief U. Renee Hall restructured the department in late November. Porter was not included on Hall's list of majors.

©2018 The Dallas Morning News

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