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Kerry A. Gilpin, a 23-year State Police veteran who turned to a career in law enforcement after the murder of her sister, took command of the 2,200-person force on Wednesday, a day after her predecessor and his top deputy abruptly retired amid a scandal over an altered police report.
In a closed door ceremony at his office, Governor Charlie Baker swore in Gilpin, 47, a major who previously served as deputy division commander of the Division of Standards and Training, which oversees internal affairs as well as the State Police training academy.
“It is the mission of the Massachusetts State Police to keep the Commonwealth safe and I have the utmost confidence that Colonel Gilpin will excel as the leader of our tremendous police force,” said Baker in a statement. “Colonel Gilpin brings decades of experience and knowledge to her post, with a deep understanding of the State Police force at every level.”
In a statement released by Baker’s office, Gilpin said she is ready to lead the agency.
“Whether working to protect public safety from internal threats such as the terrible scourge of opioids or from those seeking to attack us from outside our borders, the role of the Massachusetts State Police has never been more important than it is today,” said Gilpin. “I am honored to lead this great organization forward.”
Gilpin, a Hampden resident who graduated from Western New England College in Springfield, takes the reins at a precarious time for the State Police, which is facing two federal lawsuits as well as multiple investigations over former superintendent Richard McKeon’s handling of a police report involving the daughter of a judge.
McKeon has acknowledged ordering a trooper to alter the report on the arrest of Alli Bibaud, who was charged with driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol as well as other charges last month. McKeon told trooper Ryan Sceviour to excise Bibaud’s remarks about trading sex for heroin or leniency and about her father, Judge Timothy Bibaud of Dudley District Court.
Since the Globe first revealed Sceviour’s lawsuit last week, the State Police leadership has faced withering criticism both for changing the report and for reprimanding Sceviour as well as his sargent who approved the Bibaud report. Sceviour alleges he was punished and forced to falsify records to protect the judge and his daughter.
People who know Gilpin say she’s up to the task, in part because she was a victim of a serious crime long before she was a state trooper.
Gilpin’s 15-year-old sister, Tracy, was murdered in Kingston in October 1986, her body left in the woods of Myles Standish State Forest. The killer was never found, despite a reward offered by the family, but Gilpin told the Globe earlier this year that she believes someone will eventually be brought to justice for that crime.
“In my heart of hearts, I know that that person is out there,’’ she said.
Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett praised Gilpin for her commitment to police work.
“Colonel Gilpin became a trooper for the right reasons, because she wanted to help victims of crime and has showed leadership in each position she has been asked to take on in the State Police,’’ said Bennett, a former prosecutor in Worcester County. “I am confident that she will be a great colonel because of the tremendous dedication she has shown over the course of her career.”
Dana Pullman, the president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, the union that represents troopers, said he was “thrilled” by Gilpin’s appointment and is “looking forward to working” with her. The union had clashed intensely with McKeon as well as his deputy superintendent, Francis P. Hughes.
Hughes announced his retirement, effective Tuesday, and McKeon moved up his retirement date to leave on the same day, drawing charges from Pullman that they were looking to escape the consequences from the internal affairs complaint lodged by the union on Monday.
They both moved to file their papers with the state retirement board Tuesday night — even though a retiree has 60 days to submit an application, according to state officials.
An investigation can move forward, but the two officials can face no consequences, lawyers said.
The union alleged that the State Police command staff, including McKeon, Hughes, and others, “engaged in a conspiracy to violate the law” by tampering with official court documents.
The department can’t take any action against them, the union says, if they are no longer active employees.
“It appears that the leaders of the State Police have bailed out, leaving their subordinates who were given illegal orders, high and dry,” said Lenny Kesten, the lawyer who represents two troopers who were ordered to change their reports on Alli Bibaud.
Both have filed federal lawsuits against the command staff.
In addition to the union’s complaint, Attorney General Maura Healey has launched a review of the circumstances surrounding the altered arrest report. While her office would normally represent State Police officers who are sued, she has said she will not in this case because of her pending investigation.
Speaking to reporters at the State House after the announcement, Baker said he believes the disciplinary action taken against trooper Sceviour and his sergeant should be reversed and removed from the troopers’ personnel records.
Gilpin was not available to speak with reporters Wednesday, but Baker said he expects that she will be in the next few days.
“Let’s face it, she’s got a lot to do in the next few days,’’ he said. “She’s got to deal with some personal stuff in the short term.”
Gilpin has served in several key State Police posts. She spent 12 years working in its Crime Services Section and has also worked in the Division of Field Services, the Staff Inspections section, and the Harassment Investigation unit.
She recently attended a national preparedness initiative at Harvard University where she focused on combating the opioid epidemic.