By Lauren M. Johnson and Anjali Huynh, CNN
Following a yearlong investigation, Georgia state officials have cleared nearly all of the Georgia state trooper cadets who were implicated in a cheating scandal and fired in January 2020, according to Mike Ayers, executive director of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST).
The Georgia State Patrol cadet class of 2019 was dismissed after initial reports they cheated on an online radar gun test, CNN has reported. The cadets were accused of using written or typed notes, receiving assistance from other cadets, using internet search engines for answers and using a group chat and two SnapChat groups to communicate with other cadets.
During trooper school, the cadets spent 20 weeks at the academy and 12 weeks in field training, according to release from the department in August after they graduated. The newly graduated troopers then received more than 1,500 hours of training.
An independent investigation found that of the total 33 cadets accused, 32 former troopers did not intend to cheat, Ayers told CNN.
“It does appear at this point in time that there was a misunderstanding or breakdown of communication, if you will, between the academy staff and students, and that there is no obvious intent on the part of the cadets to deceive or to cheat on this exam.”
According to Ayers, POST, a state organization that handles law enforcement training and certification, generated over 8,000 pages of documents during their investigation.
The process spanned months due to delays from Covid-19 and because it took a “long time to track down everybody who needed to be interviewed,” Ayers said.
The POST council heard the investigation’s findings on December 9.
Those cleared of charges can be rehired as police officers and maintain their certification, Ayers told CNN.
Two instructors, one student from the class of 2019 and a student from a previous class had their certifications revoked, Ayers told CNN. These findings, he said, are not finalized, and information about those involved cannot be disclosed due to ongoing appeals processes through POST.
The Georgia Department of Public Safety told CNN that it had “no comment due to pending litigation.”
Daniel Cordell, one of the cleared officers, described the moment he first lost his position as “heartbreaking” in a phone interview with CNN.
“We had worked 32 weeks to become troopers for this state that we love, and the citizens that we … vowed to serve and protect, and it was just all taken away in the blink of an eye,” Cordell said.
He said he “sat on the floor and cried” after hearing he had been cleared.
“It was just an amazing feeling,” he said.
Cordell told CNN he has not been contacted by Georgia State Patrol about resuming his former position.
CNN’s Jamiel Lynch and Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.