BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker announced sweeping changes to the Massachusetts State Police on Monday, including eliminating Troop E, which patrolled the Mass Pike, and activating GPS locators on all state police vehicles.
The reforms come after the agency was rocked by an overtime scandal and other recent issues.
The agency’s long and honorable history and reputation “has been tarnished,” Baker said of recent agency scandals, as he joined the head of the state police, Col. Kerry Gilpin, and other officials at a Statehouse news conference Monday afternoon.
Staff from Troop E will be eliminated as a stand-alone section, and its members will be moved to other areas and patrolling the Mass Pike will be a shared responsibility for members of the Massachusetts State Police, Baker said.
In addition, state police will conduct a 30-day review of staffing to Troop F, which protects Logan International Airport and Massport properties. During this review, Baker is asking state police and Boston Police to work together to ensure the safety of the Seaport.
The agency will activate a GPS locator in all marked state police vehicles “to prioritize officer safety, track the location of our assets and to more efficiently deploy resources in the field.”
“Increasing oversight and accountability is essential,” Gilpin said.
Dana Pullman, head of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, said he hopes Gilpin will reach out and talk to him before turning on GPS tracking devices. He said the union was never consulted and he wants to make sure it’s “not just a knee-jerk reaction.”
“A lot of police agencies and a lot of public servant agencies have concerns with it, as far as its administration and how it’s put together, as we do,” Pullman said.
Pullman said he’s also concerned about the governor’s demand that pensions be pulled from troopers found in violation.
“If it’s up to me, I’d take it away, period,” Baker said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s stealing, and no one who sits in one of these public positions should steal, period. That’s like, you learn that when you’re in second grade.”
A total of 10 new positions will be added to the Staff Inspections Section, which ensures state police are following procedures, and to Internal Affairs, which investigates citizen complaints against agency members and other alleged violations of agency rules or general laws.
Both Baker and Gilpon said the goal of the reforms is to restore accountability and transparency to the agency.
An internal audit last month uncovered cases in which troopers may have been paid overtime for shifts never worked in 2016. Nine troopers have since retired and nine others are suspended without pay.
Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey has launched a criminal investigation and has called on the Republican governor to show more leadership on issues plaguing the state police.
Other reforms to policies and procedures at the Massachusetts State Police announced Monday include:
- A quarterly audit of the agency’s top 50 pay earners to ensure they adhere to rules regarding daily and weekly hourly limits. The audit results will be made public.
- Developing a body camera program for troopers “provide an additional level of accountability and accuracy” during their interactions with the public.
- An audit of the patrols and overtime shifts worked in each Turnpike barracks.
- Hiring an independent auditing firm to assess the agency’s overtime policies, protocols and record management process and manage overtime usage.
- Expanding vetting for new recruits, with questions to be added to recruit questionnaires about whether the candidate has ever been involved in criminal investigations.
Other scandals have surfaced in recent weeks within the agency.
Trooper Matthew Sheehan is under investigation for racist and profane comments he allegedly made on a website.
Also last month, state police dispatcher Carla Grant was placed on leave after she was accused of sharing sensitive information about investigations on social media.
Gilpin was sworn in as Massachusetts State Police colonel in November, after yet another scandal rocked the Massachusetts State Police.
Gilpin’s appointment came after the retirements of Colonel Richard McKeon and Deputy Superintendent Francis Hughes amid claims that a trooper was told to change a report so the daughter of Dudley District Judge Timothy Bibaud could avoid embarrassment.
Alli Bibaud, the judge’s daughter, was arrested on drug charges. McKeon later admitted to ordering changes be made to the report.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)