ATLANTA — This time last year, the firing of an entire class of Georgia State Patrol troopers made headlines. Their integrity came into question as well as the citations they wrote. Now, most of them have been cleared of charges.
"It was devastating it was heartbreaking there's really no other way to describe it. It was embarrassing as well," said Chris Cordell.
He was one of more than 30 Georgia State Patrol troopers fired for allegedly cheating on a test. But after a one-year investigation and 8,000 documents later, most of them were cleared.
"Did the cadets work together and utilize their computers? Yes. There is no doubt about what they did. Did they have the intent to be deceitful, to lie, to cheat? No," said Mike Ayers, the Executive Director of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (P.O.S.T).
He said the investigation found the troopers believed it was OK to collaborate with each other and use additional resources for an online test, even though their instructors said they didn't give the cadets that impression.
"There is no indication that there was any willful deception on the part of those troopers," Ayers said.
Cordell said he feels vindicated by the independent investigation.
"Even though we knew the truth, everyone else didn't," he said.
Ayers said while 32 of the troopers in the 106th class were cleared, one was not. He said sanctions were recommended for that trooper as well as two instructors and a cadet from a previous class. Ayers said those four cases are under appeal.
"Because the council voted to take no action that means they are free to pursue a career in law enforcement," said Ayers.
11Alive asked if this falls under wrongful termination.
"I wouldn't be the one to answer that question because number one, I'm not a lawyer and number two, I don't know anything about that part of it."
Cordell's attorney, Jeff Peil, said the troopers should have never been fired to begin with and believes they have a case.
"These employees of the state do have a whistleblower wrongful termination claim," Peil said.
Ayers said P.O.S.T. does bear some responsibility in this case because the certification test used to be offered in person, but, when they made it available online, they did not consider or set guidelines for how outside resources could be used including group collaboration.