It did not take long for the state’s police watchdog agency to pull complaints from its controversial database of officer disciplinary actions. Just two weeks after its tumultuous rollout, the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, commission removed 49 complaints from its database — allegations that range from officers failing to properly store weapons to using excessive force.
The agency removed the complaints because of data errors or decisions that had been overturned in favor of the officer, according to Enrique Zuniga, executive director of the POST Commission.
“These types of corrections were top priority for our agency,” Zuniga said in a recent interview. “We continue reviewing requests for corrections and/or updates, and will append the database on an ongoing basis.”
The commission declined to detail its decisions to remove specific complaints, but added some were removed due to redundancy.
Among the complaints removed are allegations of bias, falsifying police reports, and using excessive force, according to a Globe review of the databases. Nearly half of the complaints removed were for “conduct unbecoming” and ranged from workplace violations to associating with criminals.
Nine of the complaints removed were for officers whose discipline was characterized as “termination or something similar,” two were listed as having a suspension of 30 days or more, and others received written reprimands. One of each category, though, was a duplicate of a complaint that remains in the system.
One of the officers pulled from the database was Hudson Police Officer Kevin Johnson, who is one of the 42 officers whose certifications POST has suspended. Johnson had been charged with a crime, according to the database, and his discipline is listed as “other.” Hudson police said he’s no longer with the department.
He remains on the POST’s suspended list, according to Cynthia Campbell, a spokesperson for the commission. Asked about what is next for Johnson’s certification, Campbell said, “The POST Commission can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a pending investigation, nor comment on any individual case that may be pending.”
Boston police officers account for four of the complaints removed that carried discipline involving termination. Two of those complaints are for “Conduct Unbecoming.” Regarding one of those, Kirk D. Merricks was charged in 2013 with possession of explosives, but the charges were dropped, according to the Plymouth Superior Court clerk’s office.
In 2019, Boston Officer Joseph Lynch was fired after being accused of calling a group of teens slurs, including the n-word, while talking to school officials. He was reinstated after an arbitrator ruled that he was simply reporting what someone else had said, according to media reports at the time.
A complaint from 2005 involving Officer Baltazar DaRosa cited several allegations, including conduct unbecoming, “Violation Of Criminal Law, Association With Criminals,” and untruthfulness. In that case, DaRosa had been accused of being an accessory after the fact in a 2005 Randolph killing, but he was acquitted in court and an arbitrator later ruled that the department had been wrong to fire him.
A 2003 complaint involved Shawn Harris, one of six officers fired after the department used a since-debunked hair-testing technology that generated a higher rate of false positives for use of drugs among Black police officers. They were all eventually reinstated, and a judge in 2020 ruled the city owed the six officers, of whom five are Black, millions in back pay.
A Boston police spokesperson declined to get into specifics of entries in the POST database, but said the department continues to work with the commission to ensure records are accurate and up to date.
Dracut accounted for two of the officers who had faced termination, one in 2010 and the other in 2020, each on an allegation of untruthfulness. Through a spokesperson, Dracut Chief Peter Bartlett said he did not request that the officers’ names be removed, and he had not been notified that they had.
One has since retired and the other is out on medical leave, he said.
“In both cases, Chief Bartlett recommended termination as punishment for sustained complaints against the officers, but the Town Manager, as the Appointing Authority, overruled the chief,” said Robert Mills, a spokesperson for the department.
The POST Commission rolled out its long-awaited database of police disciplinary issues two weeks ago. Reform activists cheered the creation of the database, which is the first central statewide list of police discipline. But the effort also ran into criticism, both from advocates who took issue with how little detail the database gives about certain requests to policing organizations.
The removals, Zuniga said, attempted to fix some of those issues.
For example, one of the termination cases removed was a duplication error, Scituate Police Chief Mark Thompson said in an email. The list originally included two separate but identical complaints about one of the town’s officers, he said.
The POST Commission has acknowledged a technical error that resulted in complaints from Brookline, Everett, and Cambridge not being included in the initial version of the database, but this first update did not add any new complaints. A POST spokesperson said it plans an update “in the coming days” to add the records from those three departments.
“We would like to add what we release sooner rather than later,” Zuniga said.