The state trooper who acted as lead investigator in the Karen Read case has been relieved of his duties and transferred to another unit, bringing another public perception disaster to the troubled state police department.

Trooper Michael Proctor admitted in court to vulgar texts about Read during court proceedings. His removal was announced just hours after the high-profile murder case ended in a mistrial.

“Our focus remains on delivering the highest level of police services with professionalism and integrity,” Colonel John Mawn Jr. said in a written statement Monday night.

“This follows our previous decision to open an internal affairs investigation after information about serious misconduct emerged in testimony at the trial. This investigation is ongoing,” he continued.

Proctor will be transferred to the State Police Detective’s Unit assigned to the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office effective July 7, a five-day delay that’s required under the troopers’ collective bargaining agreement.

Proctor was confronted with his own text messages on the stand during Read’s trial, which indicated he was looking for nude photos of Read when he searched her phone. In the texts, he also made disparaging comments about Read in connection with her health.

Former Boston police lieutenant and criminologist Tom Nolan believes the public attention on the trial exposed what goes on behind closed doors.

“I suspect that this kind of activity and these kinds of behaviors have gone on routinely,” Nolan said. “Only because of the notoriety attached to this particular trial did we see it come under the glare of the public spotlight.”

But the full consequences Proctor will face for his actions remain to be seen, depending on how far the State Police attempts to discipline him and how much he’s protected by his union.

Besides the transfer, Proctor could face additional sanctions. In any state police discipline process, a trooper is subject to a duty status hearing where they will be retained on full duty, placed on restricted duty, suspended with pay, or suspended without pay, according to the state police.

Civil rights attorney Howard Friedman, whose work focuses on police misconduct cases, says Proctor’s actions might be cause for suspension.

“This is such a high-profile case that it’s going to be hard for the state police to not have severe discipline — of up to and including a termination, I would think,” he said.

Nolan doesn’t believe Proctor will be suspended due to the strength of the state troopers’ police union.

“We may see a situation here where Trooper Proctor might be suspended for a period of time, but I doubt that he’s going to lose his job over this,” he said.

Proctor’s union said in a statement Tuesday that it does “not condone” his text messages about Read.

There’s also a possibility Proctor could be decertified by the state’s POST Commission, a police accountability body. It was established under state legislation in 2020 and is empowered to strip law enforcement officers of their ability to work for any Massachusetts police agency. A spokesperson for the agency said they can’t comment on whether a case has been opened or not, or if any cases are pending.

“POST reviews each complaint individually, applying the statutory standards to the facts presented, and taking into account the totality of the circumstances,” a spokeswoman wrote to GBH News.

Nolan doesn’t think that Proctor will deal with much penalty from the police accountability body after assessing the times it’s chosen to decertify officers.

“From what I’ve seen so far, most of the occasions where they have decertified someone — it’s been reserved for people who have either been arrested or convicted of some kind of criminal offense, and not for what we’ve seen here, which is just simply incompetence,” he said.

Updated: July 02, 2024
This story was updated with comment from the State Police Association.