Nine Massachusetts State Police troopers were suspended without pay and nine more retired this week in the midst of an internal affairs investigation into alleged theft of overtime pay, the agency announced on Friday.
In all, 19 troopers were scheduled to have internal duty status hearings Friday to determine their job status while the inquiry continues into discrepancies between pay for overtime shifts and actual shifts worked. The group includes members of the force that hold the rank of trooper, sergeant, and lieutenant, according to the State Police.
State Police Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin said in a statement on Friday that in order to fill the agency’s mission, “we must have the public trust.”
“Integrity, honesty, and accountability are core values of the Massachusetts State Police,” she said in the statement.
She added, “Most importantly, those values of honesty and integrity are what our citizens rightly expect and demand.”
Earlier this week, Gilpin said that she couldn’t put a dollar figure on the amount of disputed overtime, but that the number of questionable overtime shifts per trooper ranged from one to “as high as 100.”
The Globe reported this month that 245 troopers — about 12 percent of the force — made more than $200,000 last year. An audit that revealed the apparent overtime pay discrepancies focused on Troop E, a State Police division that covers the Massachusetts Turnpike.
The State Police internal affairs unit is investigating, and that probe will determine whether policies, rules, or regulations of the agency were violated. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office is also reviewing the matter, and that office would consider the findings of the internal affairs investigation in deciding whether criminal charges are warranted, said State Police spokesman David Procopio in a brief phone interview Friday night.
Needham attorney Timothy M. Burke, who represents two lieutenants who are subject to the investigation, said Friday night that his clients have never had “any disciplinary issue in their 30-plus years of service to the Commonwealth.”
“They have never been provided with any allegation of impropriety,” he said.
Burke said previously the State Police had a system where “a ranked officer operating out of Weston” was “supposed to be monitoring the activities of troopers” who were in areas in Western Massachusetts such as Westfield. At worst, he said, the probe alleges that his clients “were unable to supervise troopers on details . . . in the far western portions of the state.” The State Police, he said, have changed the policy so that troopers have localized supervisors.
“All I can say is, without hesitation, the individuals I represent have fully complied with the responsibilities of performing each and every one of their overtime shifts in accordance with the department’s rules and regulations,” he said.
The State Police announced Tuesday that the troopers faced sanctions. Between Tuesday’s announcement and Thursday night, three of the 19 troopers retired, said Procopio. On Friday, six more retired before their status hearings.
The remaining 10 had status hearings, which resulted in the agency ordering nine members of its force to be suspended without pay. Another trooper was kept on active duty, according to a State Police statement, which did not identify the troopers.
During suspensions, State Police take department-issued vehicles, weapons, and equipment from its members.
The nine troopers who retired were not given honorable discharges, per a department policy that states those who retire while the subject of an internal affairs investigation do not receive such discharges. That could change, given the outcome of the internal affairs investigation.
In addition to the 19 who were slated for status hearings on Friday, another member of the State Police who was flagged by the audit would have been subject to a duty status hearing, but he retired before the opening of the internal affairs investigation, according to an agency statement.
Yet another trooper who was flagged by the audit would have been subject to a hearing Friday, but he was “already suspended without pay while being investigated in another matter,” according to a statement from the State Police.
Governor Charlie Baker praised the actions by Gilpin.
“Governor Baker commends Colonel Gilpin for wasting no time to act on these violations and looks forward to the attorney general’s review to ensure those who broke the law are held accountable,” said Lizzy Guyton, Baker’s communications director.
Attempts to reach the union representing troopers, the State Police Association of Massachusetts, were not immediately successful Friday.
Friday’s announcement comes after a controversial few months for the Massachusetts State Police.
The department’s previous superintendent before Gilpin, Richard McKeon, and his deputy, Francis Hughes, retired in November after revelations that McKeon had ordered an arrest report changed to remove embarrassing information about the daughter of Judge Timothy Bibaud. A lawyer for McKeon has said he ordered the deletions to remove unnecessary information.
Baker and Healey have announced investigations into the handling of the police reports.
Two more high-ranking officials linked to the redactions — Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Risteen and Major Susan Anderson — retired suddenly in February. Their retirements came after reports stated that Trooper Leigha Genduso had been hired despite having been a coconspirator in a 2007 drug case and having avoided charges by testifying. Genduso, whom multiple sources said was Risteen’s former girlfriend, was suspended.
Mark Arsenault, Travis Andersen, and Shelley Murphy of Globe staff contributed to this report. McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald @globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.