Changes ordered for Massachusetts police after overtime flap
BOSTON (AP) — Body cameras for state troopers and GPS vehicle locators in cruiser were among several policy changes ordered Monday for the Massachusetts state police after the agency was rocked by an overtime scandal and other recent disclosures.
The reforms announced by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Col. Kelly Gilpin, the commanding officer of the state police, also include disbanding Troop E, which patrols the 138-mile (220 kilometers) Massachusetts Turnpike from Boston to the New York state border. Troopers in that unit will be reassigned and responsibilities for patrolling the highway split among other divisions.
An internal audit last month revealed that nearly 30 current and former troopers assigned to Troop E may have been paid overtime for shifts never worked in 2016. Some of those troopers have since retired while others have been placed on administrative leave.
“The Massachusetts state police have a long and honorable history,” Baker said. “The men and women who have worked there for generations earned that honor. That history, that reputation has been tarnished.”
Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey has launched a criminal investigation into the possible overtime abuses and has called on the governor to show more leadership on issues plaguing the state police.
The overtime audit was launched by former state police Col. Richard McKeon, Gilpin’s predecessor.
Baker hired Gilpin after McKeon and his former second in command, Francis Hughes, abruptly retired in November amid a separate investigation into the alteration of an arrest report involving a judge’s adult daughter. McKeon was accused of ordering a trooper to scrub embarrassing information from the report to protect the judge and the woman, who police say failed sobriety tests and indicated she had a heroin addiction after an October crash.
Baker and Gilpin said the changes announced Monday will take months to implement and, in addition to improving accountability, would make troopers safer.
The governor said he hoped troopers would begin wearing body cameras by the end of the year, though it was not immediately clear how many in the department would be included in the initial rollout.
The technology for the automatic vehicle location system has been in cruisers for some time but has never been activated, Gilpin said.
“Its primary purpose is to protect our troopers by tracking their locations and will assist field commanders to more effectively deploy personnel in critical incidents and emergencies,” Gilpin said.
Dana Pullman, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, complained the new policies were rolled out with little input from the union. He strongly suggested that body cameras and vehicle locators should be subject to collective bargaining.
While calling the overtime allegations “embarrassing,” he blamed the problems on a tiny portion of the force and said the changes ordered Monday should not amount to a “kneejerk reaction.”
“Right now 99 percent of the guys are doing their jobs day in, day out,” Pullman said.
The Boston Globe reported last week that payroll records for another state police division, one that patrols Logan International Airport and the Port of Boston, had not been filed with the state comptroller since 2010.
An ongoing audit has discovered no wrongdoing within the unit, Gilpin said. She acknowledged the unit was understaffed and that further review over the next 30 days will determine if additional changes were needed.
Separately, a trooper once engaged to a man convicted of dealing drugs was placed on leave last month pending an investigation into her past. Additional screening will be added for state police recruits, Gilpin said.
Baker declared if troopers now under investigation are found to have broken laws, they should lose their public pensions.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s stealing,” Baker said of the alleged overtime abuse. “No one who sits in one of these positions should steal, period. You learn that in the second grade.”