Opinion

JOAN VENNOCHI

Charlie Baker and the curious case of the judge’s daughter

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker opens a session called "Curbing The Opioid Epidemic" at the first day of the National Governor's Association meeting Thursday, July 13, 2017, in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Photo illustration by Globe staff; Associated Press/Stephan Savoia
Governor Charlie Baker and Alli Bibaud.

The curious case of the judge’s daughter, whose arrest record was edited to remove embarrassing statements she made to state troopers, is getting more curious.

After Governor Charlie Baker ordered a review, the head of the state police suddenly retired. Then his deputy did too. Baker has called what happened a mistake and said that Daniel Bennett, the secretary of Public Safety, had nothing to do with it. But buffered by high poll numbers and the distraction known as President Trump, he has no plans to formally present any findings.

As reported by the Globe’s Andrea Estes, 30-year-old Alli Bibaud crashed her car in Worcester on Oct. 16. She reeked of alcohol and had what state Trooper Ryan Sceviour described as a “heroin kit.” She admitted performing sex acts to support her addiction and, according to his official report, offered the trooper sex in exchange for leniency. She also told the trooper her father was a judge. A few days later, the trooper was ordered to delete Bibaud’s references to sex and to her father, Dudley District Court Judge Timothy Bibaud. Sceviour and another trooper, Ali Rei, have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that top police commanders pressured them into altering the report. After swearing in a new State Police leader, Baker said he believes any disciplinary action taken against the troopers should be reversed and removed from their personnel records. He also said State Police should examine procedures for police reports.

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That’s for sure. Colonel Richard McKeon, the superintendent of the State Police until his hasty exit, said that in ordering the changes he was trying to treat a victim of opioid addiction with sensitivity and respect. He said he has told troopers “more times than I can remember” to focus their reports only on the charges against the individual. “In our law enforcement role, our first duty is to enforce the law and protect the public but that doesn’t preclude us from being empathetic toward those in need,” he wrote in his resignation letter.

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Sounds good — but can every arrestee expect that level of empathy? How many times did McKeon demonstrate it for someone unrelated to a judge or other prominent person? Did he really initiate the decision to alter Bibaud’s arrest record? Or did someone else ask him to? Judge Bibaud said he played no role. But how about others with connections to the State Police or the Baker administration?

Police protocol varies. Last August, a call to police about a noisy party in Hyannis Port ended with the arrest of Matthew Maxwell Kennedy and his 22-year-old daughter, Caroline. According to a detailed Barnstable police report, Kennedy threw himself into a wall, smashed a shelf full of glass objects, and refused to cooperate when officers tried to handcuff him. His daughter supposedly grabbed hold of a cruiser door, and during her booking said, “I went to Brown and I’m a teacher, sweetheart!” The arrests were made by local, not state, police, but it shows the subjectivity involved in producing such accounts. The case against Kennedy ended with a $150 fine for a noise violation; his daughter’s case is pending.

Beyond the matter of special treatment come questions about the sudden departures of McKeon and Deputy Superintendent Francis Hughes. The union that represents troopers said they left to avoid an Internal Affairs investigation, which the union requested this week. If true, that’s not right.

Baker is used to running Beacon Hill with little interference from the Democrats who supposedly control it. State Senator Michael O. Moore, chairman of the Legislature’s Committee on Public Safety, told the Boston Herald that it’s “premature” to organize an oversight hearing. The goal, he said, “is not to embarrass the administration.”

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No, that’s not the goal. The goal should be to tell the public what it deserves to know about law enforcement in Massachusetts. Based on the case of the judge’s daughter, the rules of engagement are rather arbitrary.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.