Union County Sheriff admits deputies used answer key, multiple tries to pass training exams

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Union County Sheriff’s Department deputies cheated on training exams for two years, according to an audit by the state Comptroller and the state’s officer training commission.

Both the Comptroller and the POST Commission found that an answer key was being used by officers in 2017 and 2018 to complete the assessment, and that the training officer reset the assessment multiple times for officers allowing them to eventually select the correct answers to questions.

Union County Sheriff Billy Breeding and the training officer initially denied having seen or admitted to providing an answer key for the Virtual Academy test. The two said a “study guide” was given to officers with questions and answers provided by Virtual Academy.

POST talked to the company and found that most Union County officers including the sheriff and chief deputy were completing the course in less than 60 seconds compared to the average time of five to 10 minutes per assessment for other jurisdictions.

Some time later, Breeding admitted that he was aware that an answer key was being used to complete the course.

A total of $15,000 and $14,400 were paid to officers for completing the program for the years 2017 and 2018, respectively.

“No other action was taken by the POST Commission against the individual deputies’ POST certifications,” the commission said in a statement.

The POST Commission decided that the $800 in-service pay supplement which is normally issued annually to the law enforcement officers for completing the course will not be issued to Union County deputies for 2020 and 2021, as a result of the improper procedures and activities with the training program. 

As part of a corrective action plan, Sheriff Breeding agreed to put a new training officer in place at the Union County Sheriff’s Department pending POST approval.

The investigation began last year, following an allegation received by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission, the two state departments who investigated the case.

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