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A plan for an elected civilian board to oversee the Chicago Police Department was rejected on Monday. | File photo

Ferguson recommends changes to ensure integrity of cop promotion exams

SHARE Ferguson recommends changes to ensure integrity of cop promotion exams
SHARE Ferguson recommends changes to ensure integrity of cop promotion exams

Inspector General Joe Ferguson on Wednesday recommended changes to “ensure the integrity” of police promotional exams and prevent the kinds of allegations he could not substantiate about cheating on a 2015 lieutenants exam.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this month that Ferguson had cleared three women — including Nakia Fenner, fiancee of Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, as well as Lt. Maryet Hall, the wife of former First Deputy Supt. Al Wysinger — of allegations that they cheated on the exam with help from retired Deputy Supt. Eugene Williams.

Ferguson is now issuing an advisory confirming he “did not find sufficient evidence to sustain allegations against any CPD member.”

RELATED: Inspector general finds no evidence of cheating on exam

That’s even after interviewing 20 individuals, including “the chief who held an invite-only study group,” reviewing 300,000 emails and conducting searches of 600,000 files on the chief’s hard drive to locate relevant documents.

Ferguson did conclude that “historically based perceptions of preferential treatment … could be mitigated” with more rigorous controls throughout the promotional process.

Specifically, he recommended that “final questions to appear on an exam be sealed and maintained by third-party professional test administrators to completely eliminate CPD access” to the exam before it is given.

Joe Ferguson, inspector general of the city of Chicago, issued a series of recommendations to improve Chicago Police promotion exams. | Sun-Times file photo

Joe Ferguson, inspector general of the city of Chicago, issued a series of recommendations to improve Chicago Police promotion exams. | Sun-Times file photo

In addition, Ferguson recommended that “subject matter experts” designated by the Chicago Police Department be required to “disclose relationships with test-takers that go beyond professional, including personal and non-CPD organizational relationships.”

The advisory issued Wednesday also highlighted what the inspector general called a “matter of significant concern” that may have impeded his investigation into Johnson’s fiancee and the other two women, all of whom recorded high scores on the exam and were subsequently promoted to lieutenant.

Although the inspector general has primary responsibility for investigating “misconduct” affecting hiring and promotions in the post-Shakman era, Ferguson noted that the Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs “failed to forward the original complaint” about cheating on the 2015 lieutenants exam to his office in a “timely fashion.”

“The 13-month delay . . . hindered timely inquiry and may have contributed to the widespread failed recollections” investigators encountered during the course of the investigation, Ferguson said.

Internal Affairs “should have forwarded the original complaint” to the inspector general’s office “immediately” as the Police Department hiring plan requires, he said.

In response, the Police Department “acknowledges limitations” in the process for drafting and administering promotional exams.

Ferguson said he “looks forward to receiving their proposals in the next 30 days and working with them to create a fair and transparent process.”

In a scathing report on the Chicago Police Department, the U.S. Justice Department discussed Ferguson’s investigation of Johnson’s fiancee and the others and devoted a section to CPD’s much-criticized promotion process.

“In addition to litigation concerning the tests’ discriminatory impact, promotional exams also have been tainted with allegations of cheating and cronyism in the exam’s preparations or administration,” states the report. The women weren’t identified, but sources said the investigation was looking into allegations that Williams, a former finalist for police superintendent, improperly coached them.

Williams was a subject matter expert who helped develop the exam and was the “final reviewer of potential exam content.” He has repeatedly refused to discuss the coaching allegations and has since retired.

The three women were among 26 sergeants promoted after doing well on the test. Hall scored a No. 1 ranking. Fenner finished 17th. Ward was No. 24.

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