SFPD commander David Lazar cleared in tutoring allegation 

An internal city investigation has cleared a San Francisco police commander of wrongdoing following accusations that he helped tutor other officers for a promotional examination he then helped to create and grade.

While Cmdr. David Lazar may have helped colleagues prepare for an exam, if he did so, it apparently occurred before he signed on as a so-called “subject matter expert” who graded and possibly prepared a recent exam for would-be police captains.

Questions about the test were first raised by police Lt. Cornelius “Con” Johnson, who took the exam at the same time as other applicants and later filed complaints about the way the tests were graded. Johnson’s accusations have held up certification of the results from that exam.

Last week, Civil Service Commissioner Morgan Gorrono called for the test to be regraded by outside experts because of questions of impropriety. But a Department of Human Resources investigation on Lazar concluded that his work as a grader could not have affected the test outcome because he was just one of 15 experts who graded a portion of the exam’s 42 separate ratings.

However, the investigation did not address the accusation that some officers may have scored higher on the test because their tutor also helped write test questions. Department spokeswoman Jennifer Johnston said she could not comment on whether Lazar helped create the test.

The report also didn’t clarify whether Lazar actually tutored anyone, although it did note that several graders had previously done so. Lazar has not addressed the question publicly because he is bound by a confidentiality agreement.

When Lazar became involved in the examination process, he was explicitly forbidden from guiding, mentoring or tutoring candidates in preparation for the exam.

But before high-ranking officers like Lazar become involved in testing, they are encouraged to share their knowledge with departmental subordinates, wrote John Kraus, the assistant deputy director who conducted the investigation.

Officer study groups may start preparing for exams years before an examination is given, Kraus wrote. Such groups are neither “inappropriate” nor “unusual” and it is “often the most dedicated officers who are willing to give their time … for the betterment of the police department.”

Johnson, who scored 31st on the captain’s exam, claimed that he was only faulted for his written answers, where he and other applicants could be identified by graders such as Lazar.

However, the investigation concluded that even when the written portion of the exam was omitted from the test results, the 10 officers who scored highest on the test would all have remained in the top 10.

The investigation concluded that calling in outside experts to regrade the exam was unnecessary and would most likely cost The City $27,000.

“The City of San Francisco entrusts these individuals with enormous responsibility, including the lives of citizens and subordinate officers,” Kraus wrote. “It is inconsistent to suggest that they are not to be trusted with the security of a promotional examination.”

The Civil Service Commission will discuss the case today.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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