Metro

State Police to eliminate Troop E in wake of overtime scandal

Governor Charlie Baker and Massachusetts State Police Colonel Kerry Gilpin held a press conference at the State House to announce a series of reforms to policies and procedures at the Massachusetts State Police.
Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
Governor Charlie Baker and Massachusetts State Police Colonel Kerry Gilpin held a press conference at the State House to announce a series of reforms to policies and procedures at the Massachusetts State Police.

Governor Charlie Baker and the head of the State Police on Monday announced the agency would eliminate the scandal-plagued Troop E unit and begin tracking all cruisers through GPS monitoring — part of an overhaul in response to allegations that dozens of troopers put in for overtime they never worked.

The changes laid out by Baker and Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin are designed to begin fixing what Baker called the police force’s “tarnished” reputation.

“It is clear that the actions of members within this agency have threatened that public trust,” Gilpin said at a State House press conference. “The membership knows that we need change. I’ve heard from several members before this press conference [who said], ‘We really need to take down Troop E. We really need reforms.’ I think they’re ready for change, they’re ready for leadership.”

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The changes include a department-wide body camera program, which Baker said he wants in place by the end of the year.

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State Police officials have also launched a 30-day review of staffing at Troop F, the 140-member unit that patrols Logan International Airport and the Seaport and that has come under fire after officials acknowledged not making public years of salary and overtime data for the troop.

Baker has also directed Gilpin to create a plan to work with Boston police on how the two agencies — long at odds over their jurisdiction of the fast-growing waterfront neighborhood — will patrol the district.

The policy shifts follow several scandals, including an investigation that officials say found 29 active and retired troopers in Troop E had filed for overtime shifts in 2016 that they never actually worked.

Attorney General Maura Healey has launched a criminal investigation into the allegations, and Gilpin has expanded an internal audit to examine troopers’ overtime use over a three-year period. The colonel disclosed Monday that State Police would also begin auditing the department’s top 50 earners on a quarterly basis to flag any questionable payouts.

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In response, the department now intends to shutter Troop E — which has been tasked with patrolling the Massachusetts Turnpike — and disperse the 129 troopers there to other troops around the state. Gilpin said the agency has thus far found no evidence of overtime abuse in other units.

“The Massachusetts State Police has a long and honorable history. . . . That history, that reputation, has been tarnished,” said Baker, who added that those who have violated department rules should also be in danger of losing retirement benefits. Under state law, public officials are in danger of having their pensions stripped if they’re convicted of a crime linked to their official duties.

“If it’s up to me, I’d take it away — period,” Baker said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s stealing. And no one who sits in one of these public positions should steal — period. You learn that when you’re in second grade. What we’re talking about here is sworn officers of the law.”

While Baker and Gilpin outlined various changes they intend to make, key details appear to be unsettled.

Baker said he directly ordered Gilpin to activate what’s known as Automatic Vehicle Locator technology to track troopers’ cruisers during their shifts. State Police officials originally said the department has had the capability of doing so through laptops installed in every marked cruiser, but neither Baker nor Gilpin could explain why it wasn’t used.

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But David Procopio, a State Police spokesman, said hours later that while State Police had the hardware for the GPS technology, it doesn’t have the corresponding software. He said State Police have “begun the process of purchasing” it and hope to have it operating within 30 days.

Procopio also released a copy of a June 2015 draft order on body cameras that Gilpin referred to during the press conference but was never put into policy. It outlines broad details of a body camera program, but Procopio said that it “does not necessarily reflect what our new body camera policy will ultimately look like.”

One point of contention is how the Seaport will be patrolled. For years, troopers have fought Boston police to maintain their exclusive right to have Troop F patrol Massport property along the South Boston waterfront.

Baker aides said it was unclear if changes to how the Seaport is policed would require legislation, and Gilpin did not directly address a question of whether the State Police was willing to cede some of its control there.

“We’ll be looking at all angles,” she said.

Nicole Caravella, a spokeswoman for Mayor Martin J. Walsh, said that he “looks forward to working with the state on a long-needed plan for concurrent jurisdiction in the Seaport District to ensure that all residents have access to the same police services as the rest of the city.”

The Globe reported last week that neither the State Police nor Massport had publicly filed information on payouts for Troop F with the state comptroller since 2010. The departments later reached an agreement in which the troopers would be paid directly by the State Police and the data would go online.

Gilpin said State Police did a “high-level audit” of the troop and found no “wrongdoing.”

The Globe also disclosed last month that 245 troopers — or about 12 percent of the force — made more than $200,000 last year, often by working long overtime shifts or taking on multiple details directing traffic or providing security at special events.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Dana Pullman, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts.

In his own afternoon press conference, Dana Pullman — president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, the union representing troopers and sergeants — didn’t address whether the union would oppose the various changes but said he feels that many changes should be hashed out at the collective bargaining table and not done as a “knee-jerk” reaction.

“Let’s face it, 99 percent of the guys on the job right now are doing their job, day in, day out,” he said.

Pullman expressed specific skepticism about the GPS monitoring: “to characterize the entire job as needing this type of thing, I don’t agree.”

State Police said Monday they also intend to more stringently vet potential hires by adding language to a questionnaire that candidates disclose whether they have ever been “connected to a criminal investigation,” even if they weren’t charged. It comes in direct response to the 2014 hiring of Leigha Genduso, who testified in federal court in 2007 about how she helped her live-in boyfriend deal marijuana and hide evidence, the Globe reported.

A year later, she was hired as a dispatcher by the State Police and then joined law enforcement in 2014 as a trooper. Genduso has since been placed on paid administrative leave.

John Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout. Travis Anderson can be reached at travis.anderson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.