Bypassed Police Sergeant Alleges Cheating on 2015 Lieutenant’s Exam

Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson could not substantiate allegations of cheating on a 2015 police lieutenants exam that allegedly benefited three women, one of whom is now married to Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.

But that’s apparently not good enough to satisfy Sgt. Hosea Word, who claims he was bypassed because of the cheating that benefited Johnson’s wife, Lt. Nakia Fenner, along with Lt. Maryet Hall, the wife of former First Deputy Supt. Al Wysinger, and Lt. Davina Ward, who was allegedly involved with then-Deputy Superintendent Eugene Williams.

Word filed a lawsuit in federal court this week, alleging that Johnson, Wysinger and Williams “shared the answers” to the 2015 exam “with certain female officers that they were dating or had married.”

The goal was to “manipulate the examination process and to ensure that their wives and girlfriends would score well on the lieutenant’s exam,” the suit alleges. The alleged cheating “enabled persons to be promoted who had not fairly and honestly earned that right.”

The episode is “part of a pattern and practice that includes rigging hiring and promotion examinations” that the city was aware of and chose not to remediate, the lawsuit states.

Word took the 2015 exam and ranked 280 out of 700.

His lawsuit names four defendants: the city of Chicago, Johnson, Williams and Wysinger.

It seeks a preliminary injunction “ordering removal of the promotion list tainted by the fraudulent testing” and the appointment of an “independent and impartial special master or third-party to oversee the testing process” at the police department.

If granted, such an injunction would also prohibit the city from retaliating against Word, reimburse him for attorney’s fees and expert costs, and award him “all relief to which plaintiff may be entitled.”

The Law Department refused to comment on the lawsuit.

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.

Last year, Ferguson cleared the three women of allegations that they cheated on the exam with help from Williams, now retired.

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.

The inspector general’s follow-up advisory also highlighted what Ferguson called a “matter of significant concern” that may have impeded his investigation into Johnson’s fiancee and the other two women, all of who 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,” Ferguson wrote then.

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.

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.

Word’s lawsuit points to the DOJ report.

“When unqualified or under-qualified persons are promoted to higher ranks within the CPD, those persons are more likely to authorize or condone the use of excessive force against civilians and are not as knowledgeable or capable of employing or instructing others on de-escalation,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims the “wives and girlfriends” of Johnson, Wysinger and Williams “did not score in the top tier” of the 2006 lieutenant’s exam and that Wysinger’s wife was ranked 280 out of 700.