Five Galveston County Sheriff’s Office deputies were reprimanded earlier this year after state investigators determined they cheated in 2015 while taking state-required training courses, including one on law enforcement ethics, according to a state agency.
The deputies — Belinda Scott, Guadalupe Mendez, Barney Jones, Kenneth Hogan and Cedric Banks — violated the Texas Administrative Code by completing tests “by deceitful means” in August and September of 2015, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
All of the deputies worked in the Galveston County jail at the time. Sheriff’s office officials said four of them still work there, and were disciplined after the cheating incident was revealed.
Peace officers in Texas, including jail officers, are required to complete at least 40 hours of continuing education training over a two-year period.
The cheating was uncovered by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which received a complaint about the matter in January 2017. The punishments were handed down in August, according to documents obtained by The Daily News.
A person — identified in investigation documents as Scott’s ex-husband — told the commission in January that Scott was completing tests for other deputies, and implied that she was taking a fee for doing so, according to the document.
Investigators reviewed computer records and identified an IP address that Scott used while accessing an online training site. They also identified other deputies who accessed the testing site from the same IP address.
The investigators spoke to six deputies about tests that were taken from suspicious IP addresses. Four of them in the group that was disciplined admitted to allowing Scott to use their login information and take tests for them, according to the document.
Scott took tests relating to cultural diversity, human trafficking, crisis communication and one named “Ethics for Law Enforcement.”
When confronted with the investigation, Scott admitted to taking tests for others, the report states.
“Scott states she did not think about it being wrong and she just wanted to help people,” the report said.
She told investigators that she believed the revelation would be an “embarrassment” to the department.
All five of the deputies received written reprimands over the test taking; a letter noting the cheating was put in their permanent files.
The sheriff’s office did not reveal the cheating publicly. The case files for the investigation were obtained by The Daily News through an open records request.
Galveston County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mary Johnson said that four of the five deputies, including Scott, were still employed. Jones has retired from the department.
Johnson said that the sheriff’s office disciplined the deputies beyond the punishments handed down by the law enforcement commission — but said she could not reveal what those punishments were.
“They all received disciplinary action,” Johnson said. “The sheriff’s office takes this very seriously.”
While the sheriff’s office offers training courses to deputies and jail officers for free, people are also allowed to take the courses on their own. The sheriffs office audits who has completed their training, according to state records, and employees who have not completed all their course work are not allowed to work, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.
Johnson said she believed the people involved in this incident procrastinated in completing their required coursework, and waited until the last minute to complete their testing. The incidents cited in the commission’s reports all occurred between Aug. 31 and Sept. 6, 2015.
Sheriff’s office officials said they believe that all their employees are now taking their own tests.