San Francisco police officer named in test-tutoring complaint 

The results of a recent promotional exam to become a San Francisco police captain are now in question as the Civil Service Commission investigates whether a command staff member who helped create and grade the test also tutored a handful of officers who took it.

Cmdr. David Lazar has been a rising star in the Police Department after being named captain of the Ingleside Police Station in 2009 to implement new community-policing strategies. Soon thereafter, he was promoted to commander — a $200,000-a-year position — in the staff shuffle that followed the department’s crime-lab scandal.
But now, according to two sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, he is being investigated for allegedly tutoring a group of officers who all scored in the top ranks of a recent promotional examination.

In a complaint filed by Lt. Cornelius “Con” Johnson, who apparently took the exam at the same time as the other applicants, Lazar is accused of tutoring the officers and then taking part — with 12 other command staff members — in developing and grading the test.

Johnson originally filed three complaints against Lazar, but a commission memo indicates that a Department of Human Resources staff member dismissed the other two complaints on a lack of evidence.

A formal report on the remaining accusation is expected to be submitted next week. A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 25.

If the tutoring allegations are true, Lazar would have violated a department edict preventing so-called “subject matter experts” from being “available to guide, mentor, tutor, or in any way direct candidates in their preparation for the examination.”

In the wake of the investigation, creation of a new list of officers eligible for promotion to captain has been delayed.

Neither Lazar nor Johnson returned calls for comment. Interim police Chief Jeff Godown declined to comment on the investigation, but had nothing but praise for Lazar.

“I know David Lazar,” Godown said. “He’s a high-caliber, high-quality individual with a great reputation.”

One of the two dismissed complaints alleged that “interested parties” who knew and favored certain exam candidates were involved in the grading of promotional exams. Johnson alleged, according to a memo, that the grading officers had the discretion to award points to candidates whose handwriting they recognized.

Human Resources investigator John Kraus rejected that argument. “Mr. Johnson has not provided any facts or evidence to support his belief that there was rater bias or that any subject matter expert violated test security or had any inappropriate conversations with candidates regarding examination matters,” his memo said.

While several members of the Civil Service Commission have expressed concerns over the allegation, they either did not return phone calls or declined to comment until the hearing next week.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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Brent Begin

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