LOWELL -- An allegation of cheating on a promotional examination has prompted Lowell Police Superintendent William Taylor to delay indefinitely the promotion of 10 police officers to the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant and captain.
Taylor's decision was also prompted by Sgt. Steven O'Neill's accusation that three sergeants who scored high enough to be promoted to lieutenant are not eligible for promotion because they live in New Hampshire, in violation of an internal department regulation.
The day-long promotional examination was administered on April 29 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center.
The promotion of four patrolmen to sergeant, four sergeants to lieutenant, and two lieutenants to captain were scheduled to take effect Sunday.
Taylor declined to divulge the names of the officers who may, or may not, be involved in the alleged cheating. However, Taylor acknowledged that he has formed a three-member Board of Inquiry to determine if cheating occurred.
The board is comprised of Captain Jonathan Webb and Lieutenants Timothy Crowley and Paul Laferrieer. Typically, boards of inquiry are formed only to resolve the most serious cases of alleged officer misconduct. This marks the second time in less than a year the police department has formed a board of inquiry.
Taylor said the board was formed a week ago and that he expects it to complete its work in about another week. Webb, Crowley, and Laferrieer are temporarily relieved of all regular duties and are working "40 hours a week" on the alleged cheating, Taylor said.
While Taylor would not discuss specifics, he expressed frustration about the delay in promotions because it is preventing the department from deploying certain personnel to battle gang violence, such as last week's shooting of five people on Midland Street in the Highlands.
The Sun has learned that the cheating allegation was made by a superior officer against another superior officer, both of whom are sergeants who took the promotional examination to become lieutenants.
Meanwhile, O'Neill, who currently works in the police department's training decision, declined to comment.
The Sun, has learned however, that O'Neill has filed an appeal with the state Civil Service Commission and that a July 8 hearing has been scheduled. O'Neill, The Sun has learned, took the promotional job for lieutenant.
Taylor would not divulge the names of the three current sergeants who are the focus of O'Neill's complaint. However, Taylor did say that in order to be a superior officer in the Lowell Police Department, one must have a Massachusetts' driver's license. In fact, any Lowell police officer must have a Massachusetts' drivers license and live within a 10-mile radius of the city.
Meanwhile, the last time the police department convened a board of inquiry was in late July, 2013, when Interim Supt. Deborah Friedl appointed Capt. Kevin Staveley and Lieutenants Barry Golner and James Hodgdon to the board that probed the death of Alyssa Brame in police custody on January 13, 2013.
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