Unit 5 Sources Allege Fire Academy Cheating POSTED: 8:57 a.m. CST October 31, 2003 UPDATED: 1:55 p.m. CST October 31, 2003 CHICAGO -- In an Unit 5 exclusive report on the Chicago Fire Department, Dave Savini <http://www.nbc5.com/nbc5/1178998/detail.html> uncovered an alleged "exam scam" at the Fire Academy, in which firefighters are allegedly given the answers to key placement exams -- and then assigned to jobs. VIDEO: 'Exam Scam' Alleged <http://chicagotv.feedroom.com/index.jsp?fr_story=5fc280a077721d185a0c94 60dc0e2918e639421d&auto_band=x> "We've learned that the governor's office has been notified at this hour about the alleged cheating scandal we uncovered," Savini said at 10 p.m. Thursday. "And we've learned that at least eight fire academy instructors had to be removed from their posts because they were not even certified to teach." But most alarming, Savini said, was a claim by his sources that exam questions and answers were given in advance to firefighters "since at least the year 2000." TRANSCRIPT SAVINI: "In the wake of the fatal Loop fire, serious questions are being raised about the training of Chicago firefighters. Tonight, our Unit 5 investigative team has uncovered a secret kept for at least three years behind (the walls of the Chicago Fire Academy) -- a Chicago Fire Academy cheating scandal." UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: "They put these guys on the street with minimum training, minimum knowledge, and it's ... it's ... it could be dangerous and, from what I hear, it has been." SAVINI: "This fireman who says he's afraid of losing his job. He says firefighters have gotten their hands on the exams they must pass to become certified as emergency medical technicians. "Unit 5 obtained copies of the test that an untold number of firefighters allegedly have used to cheat. (Showing test) Take a look: All of the answers are filled in. "So how did they get the test? Our sources say it's been handed out right at the academy. "(Addressing firefighter) In essence, what you're saying is that teachers at the academy are helping them cheat." FIREFIGHTER: "Yes." LESLEE STEIN SPENCER: "We are concerned about whether or not the exam has been compromised." SAVINI: "Leslee Stein Spencer is chief of Emergency Medical Services for the Illinois Department of Health, tha agency that certifies firefighters and EMTs." SPENCER: "It wasn't the first time. We have had, I think, issues over the years where we've seen that the exam has gotten out." SAVINI: "Spencer says the exams are supposed to be kept under lock and key." SPENCER: "They have signed papers with us that it is in a locked, secure place." SAVINI: "So they have all the answers to the questions in advance." FIREFIGHTER: "Yes, they do." SAVINI: "In fact, last month, state inspectors pulled off the street 11 firefighter EMTs assigned to ambulances when they flunked spot checks and couldn't answer basic medical questions." SPENCER: "The questions were something that every EMT that we license in Illinois should know." SAVINI: "Sources say another problem is that trainees don't show up for class since they have the tests to cheat from. "(Addressing firefighter) How bad is it?" FIREFIGHTER: "Oh, it could be very bad. There have been stories and cases where patient care has been compromised." Fire Department Response, State Investigation In a statement from the Chicago Fire Department, a spokesman said that if the Department had been notified of any cheating allegations, it would have conducted a thorough investigation, Savini said. Savini said an Illinois Public Health Department probe is now underway. "They say if instructors gave out these questions, that is of great concern," Savini said. "It calls into question the integrity of the entire testing process. If warranted, a complete re-testing can be ordered." Savini said he was told that if the allegations are true, they could be considered criminal.