Scandals Scar Massachusetts State Police
Scandals have engulfed the Massachusetts State Police.
Top commanders abruptly retired after a trooper said he was forced to censor a report on the arrest of a judge’s daughter. A trooper is suspended after it was discovered she had confessed to being a drug-dealer before she was hired. Now, there is evidence of an overtime pay scam.
19 troopers are facing duty status hearings that could result in discipline for stealing overtime pay for no-show traffic enforcement shifts on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Another trooper already suspended for something else and a retiree have also been implicated.
Col. Kerry Gilpin, superintendent of the state police, said an internal audit of Troop E, the division that patrols the Turnpike, found discrepancies between overtime that was paid and actual patrols worked.
"It is very disheartening," Gilpin said.
At a news conference this week at State Police Headquarters, Gilpin would not put a dollar amount on the questionable overtime, but said the number of no-show shifts per-trooper ranged from one to as many as 100.
"I came on this job to for a reason; to make a difference for public respect and public trust and to think these alleged actions occurred, not just prior to me, but on my watch is why we are expanding ( the audit) to go Commonwealth-wide and look at all the patrols to make sure it does not happen again," Gilpin said.
Gilpin said the findings of the audit were turned over to the state attorney general for possible criminal prosecution. The identities of the troopers under suspicion were not revealed. The State Police Association of Massachusetts, the union that represents troopers, said in a statement that it does not condone any actions that may have violated the public trust.
This is just the latest controversy in the last few months to sully the reputation of the State Police.
Two state troopers filed lawsuits in federal court last November alleging they were ordered by superiors to censor official reports on the arrest of the daughter of a state judge.
Governor Charlie Baker ordered an investigation.
"Those are serious allegations and it is very important the facts associated with them be properly vetted," Baker said.
But just a day after Baker announced the review, came news of a shakeup at the top of the state police.
Both Col. Richard McKeon and Deputy Superintendent Francis Hughes abruptly announced their retirements.
Baker said he had not asked McKeon to go.
"The colonel made pretty clear this was his decision from the beginning, he was very up front about that," said Baker adding " I believe he made a mistake and I wish him well. The man did a terrific job of serving the public for 35 years and we should not forget that."
Last month, the State Police announced the suspension of Trooper Leigha Genduso after the blog Turtleboy Sports reported that years before she was hired, Genduso had been charged in a massive federal drug investigation. She escaped prosecution by agreeing to testify against coconspirators.
Then came the sudden retirement of the third in-command at the State Police, Lt. Col Daniel Risteen. Several media reports identified Risteen as Genduso’s former boyfriend.
The accumulating scandals have landed in the lap of Gilpin, who was appointed by Baker last November to lead the State Police.
Public Safety Secretary Dan Bennett, also a Baker appointee, said he’s confident Gilpin can restore public trust in the State Police.
"What Col. Gilpin is proposing to do in the future is going to make the State Police a better organization and to insure that incidents like this never happen in the future," Bennett said.
When police departments are confronted with scandals they have to face the controversy head-on with a robust investigation that makes it clear any wrongdoing won’t be tolerated, according to Matt Forte, retired director of training for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police.
"Also, policies and procedures development should be very clear about what actions police officers should or should not take and what the repercussions could be if they violate the policies and procedures or rules and regulations," said Forte.
Both House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Harriette Chandler have said legislative oversight hearings are warranted and Gilpin will likely be asked to testify.