Troopers cleared in cheating scandal back on the beat

Nov. 24—A reader emailed a reporter at The News last month wanting to know why he got slapped with a speeding ticket from a law enforcement officer who had been publicly declared a cheat and unfit to wear a badge.

The officer in question was one of 33 members of the Georgia State Patrol's 106th Trooper School class of August 2019.

Acting on a press release from Jan. 29, 2020, by Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Col. Mark McDonough in Atlanta, The News reported that more than 30 former cadets were fired from the state patrol or had otherwise lost their badges over a cheating scandal during their training.

The News reported that troopers Logan Beck and Bryan Whelehan of Glynn County's Jekyll Island state patrol post were among those disciplined in the 106th class.

"The reason I am writing you is if this officer was fired, how is he still writing tickets and pulling people over?" the man asked in his Oct. 3 email to a reporter with The News.

For the record, Beck and Whelehan both still serve and protect as troopers with the Jekyll Island post. As it turns out, the 106th class was subsequently cleared of the cheating allegations leveled against them. The findings came out in late January 2021 after an exhaustive investigation by the Georgia Peace Officer and Standards and Training (POST) Council.

No press release announcing this follow-up of redemption for the cadets was issued by the state Public Safety Commission. McDonough resigned shortly after, and it became the cheating scandal that never was.

Although the second chapter of this saga was covered extensively by capitol city metro media, it was not reported by The News. Neither the state patrol nor POST contacted The News to set the record straight.

Here is the rest of the story, which includes a nearly $1 million settlement with the cadets.

An investigation that started in October 2019 determined that the cadets had cheated on a radar detection exam during training at the Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth County. The investigation concluded they cheated by sharing information and using the textbook and other resources during the actual exam.

The cadets filed joint lawsuits in November 2020.

During the subsequent POST investigation, the 106th class's cadets told investigators that they interpreted encouragement from an instructor to "work together" and to "use your resources" as a directive to share information. Instructors did this during a pep talk to the bulk of the class, which came after two cadets failed the radar exam in late April 2019 and three others squeaked by with low passing grades, according to reports.

The rest of the class took the test in May 2019 and no cadet scored lower than 80.

A passing grade on the radar test is a must for graduation from the trooper academy.

All of the cadets remained adamant that they had the green light from instructors to work together and use resources when taking the radar test.

An investigation that racked up about 8,000 pages of documentation determined in March 2021 that 32 of the cadets had not cheated.

The findings were made public during a joint statement from the Georgia Department of Public Safety and attorneys for the cadets. It was issued as part of a settlement memorandum released in March 2021, the state patrol told The News on Nov. 19. The statement was not issued to The News upon its original release.

"It is a desire of all parties involved, that this joint press statement will aid in bringing closure and healing to a stressful, emotional, and extremely difficult time," the statement concluded. "The Department will not comment further on the terms of this resolution."

The state patrol "rescinded" the "dismissals" of 31 cadets from the 106th class, the state patrol told The News. Some 28 of those cadets were subsequently declared eligible to serve in the Georgia State Patrol, Whelehan and Beck among them, the state patrol said.

The cadets received a total of $950,000 in two settlements, the state patrol told The News. From that total, most of the cadets received $17,500, Whelehan and Beck among them, according to the settlement statement. Two of the cadets received $20,951, the settlement statement shows.

Whelehan serves as a TFC1 trooper with the Jekyll Island post.

The reader who first pointed out The News' unfinished reporting business on the issue noted that Beck was a Camden County deputy when he cited the man for speeding on Interstate-95. (The man maintains he was not speeding.)

Beck served with the Camden County Sheriff's Office from February 2020 until May 2021, said Camden County Sheriff's Office Sgt. James L. Bruce said.

Beck began serving at the state patrol's Jekyll Island post on May 7, 2021, the state patrol said.