The Massachusetts State Police has been ordered to activate GPS tracking of its marked cruisers, will eliminate the troop that has been the subject of a probe into potential overtime fraud, is reviewing the staffing levels of the troop that protects Logan Airport, and will begin discussions about implementing a body camera program.
State Police Superintendent Col. Kerry Gilpin announced the changes Monday in an effort to restore public confidence in an agency that has been beleaguered by one scandal after another in recent months, including the recent revelations that more than 20 troopers apparently put in for overtime shifts they did not work.
"One of the most critical requirements necessary for us to fulfill our mission is to have the trust and confidence of the citizens we serve," Gilpin said at a press conference Monday, with members of her command staff seated in the front row. "It is clear that the actions of members of this agency have threatened that public trust. As colonel and superintendent of this historic police department, it is my job to lead the mission to restore that trust."
Gov. Charlie Baker said he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito were briefed on the changes presented Monday by Gilpin and "support it, all of it." He said, "Restoring public trust to an agency that has so much day-to-day contact with the public, once it's been bruised, is not easy to do."
Baker added, "There is a lot of work that needs to be done here to polish this one up."
The changes are intended to "reduce overtime shifts, publicly audit payroll, restructure staffing levels at key barracks and dramatically increase oversight and accountability across the Department," the governor's office said.
The State Police will eliminate its Troop E, the troop responsible for patrolling the Massachusetts Turnpike and the troop where "the apparent abuse" of overtime took place, Baker said. Patrolling the Pike will become a shared responsibility and Troop E's barracks will be absorbed into regional troops. Troopers currently assigned to Troop E will be reassigned to the regional troop in which their barracks sits — either Troops B, C or H — but the barracks that has housed Troop E along the Turnpike will remain.
SHNS Video: Baker, Gilpin announce changes at State Police
"We have determined that in the interest of public safety that the department would reorganize the Turnpike barracks," Gilpin said. She added, "This reorganization will increase the personnel size of Troops H, C and B, which will have the result of increasing the available number of field supervisors and road patrols able to respond to the Turnpike in an emergency."
And having a greater number of sergeants and lieutenants in each troop will give the State Police the "capability to enhance supervision on the Turnpike," Gilpin said.
Meanwhile, the attorney general is reviewing information sent over by Gilpin to determine whether any members of Troop E broke the law by accepting overtime payments for shifts they did not work.
Gilpin late last month announced that an internal audit revealed that taxpayers have covered the unspecified costs of unworked traffic enforcement shifts by troopers. Nine of the 19 State Police members who were to go through hearings in connection with the agency's probe chose to retire before the hearings and nine others were suspended without pay.
Baker said Monday that if either investigation — the attorney general's criminal probe or the internal State Police investigation — finds that a trooper who retired violated the law or State Police policies, "they should lose their pensions."
"If it's up to me, I take it away. Period. As far as I'm concerned, that's stealing and no one who sits in one of these public positions should steal. Period. You learn that when you're in second grade," Baker said. "We're talking here about sworn officers of the law who every single day as part of their mission to protect the public arrest people. Those people are ultimately held accountable for the consequences of their actions. The same should be true with respect to those members of the law enforcement community who violate those laws. Seems pretty simple to me."
State Police Association President Dana Pullman said his organization will defend its members "to the utmost" and suggested Baker has gotten ahead of himself.
"Given that the investigation has, in our opinion, just been undertaken, that's a broad statement in my opinion," he said. He added, "If they are in violation, there are procedures and protocols to address those issues with the Retirement Board and from a criminal nature."
Also Monday, Baker said that he has ordered Gilpin to turn on the automatic vehicle locator devices installed in marked State Police vehicles to "ensure that supervisory personnel will have real-time information concerning the location and movement of every trooper on the job."
Gilpin said the technology will be added to other State Police vehicles "in the coming months."
Pullman said his union would support the use of GPS monitoring of State Police cruisers if, in fact, it is being done in the interest of trooper safety.
"We want to make sure this is exactly what it's being done for, officer safety ... not just a knee-jerk reaction because someone was potentially doing something illegal," he said.
Pullman said he disagrees that GPS tracking of marked cruisers is necessary, and said he had not discussed it with Gilpin before her announcement Monday.
"Let's face it, 99 percent of the guys on this job right now are doing their job, day in and day out. To characterize the entire job as needing this type of thing, I don't agree," he said. "I think if it has some type of benefit for our personnel, then discussions would be warranted. But if it's already going to be turned on, I guess it's a conversation we're going to have live."
Another issue that could become a point of contention between Gilpin's command staff and the union is the colonel's announcement Monday that the State Police plans to develop a body camera program. Gilpin did not offer details of what such a program would look like and said "further discussion will be required" with the union before a program is put in place.
Pullman said any body camera program must apply to the State Police ranks "from the top on down if it's going to be implemented." He said he has not yet discussed the program with Gilpin or her staff.
The State Police union head said repeatedly Monday that the issues at the State Police involve about one percent of the department and said the very public scandals are "embarrassing for all of us."
The State Police will also begin a 30-day review of Troop F, which covers Massachusetts Port Authority properties like Logan Airport and parts of Boston's Seaport District, to determine the appropriate staffing level there. Gilpin said Troop F is currently down 30 bodies, leading to greater rates of overtime.
Among the other changes announced Monday is a new quarterly audit of the State Police's top 50 earners "to ensure they adhere to rules regarding daily and weekly hourly limits." The audits will be made public, Gilpin said.
Gilpin also plans to hire an independent auditing firm to study the department's overtime policies, protocols and record management processes, and has already authorized six new positions in the State Police's staff inspections section — responsible for making sure troopers adhere to agency policies — and four new positions in the internal affairs section, which investigates citizen complaints against members of the State Police.
Baker installed Gilpin as superintendent of the State Police in November after Col. Richard McKeon retired amidst a swirling controversy over the department's handling of an arrest report for the daughter of a central Massachusetts judge.