Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez on Wednesday called for his rival Governor Charlie Baker to “immediately fire” the heads of the Massachusetts State Police and its parent agency, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.
“The public deserves better,” said Gonzalez, describing the Baker administration’s handling of the State Police “disastrous.” “We need leadership we can trust.”
Gonzalez said outside leadership should be brought in to shake up the status quo at State Police, arguing Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin and Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett have moved too slowly to reform the state’s largest law enforcement agency following recent scandals.
Under state law, only internal candidates can become the State Police colonel, a gubernatorial appointment. Gonzalez said legislation should be drafted “immediately” to change that.
Baker promoted Gilpin, a 24-year veteran of the force, to the post in November after former Colonel Richard McKeon retired following revelations he ordered troopers to remove embarrassing information from an arrest report about a judge’s daughter.
Gilpin’s tenure has been marked by a series of public controversies. While none have been directly connected to her and many involve alleged wrongdoing before she became colonel, the scandals have tarnished the agency’s reputation and internal morale.
The most high-profile problem for State Police has been the results of an ongoing internal audit, which so far has found 46 troopers allegedly collected pay for overtime hours they never worked, while writing phony traffic citations to hide their absence. The internal audit began before Gilpin took them helm, but she has expanded it and submitted evidence against troopers to prosecutors to pursue.
Eight of those troopers face either federal or state criminal charges. Three have pleaded guilty to embezzlement. State prosecutors have said to expect more charges.
Gonzalez referenced how Gilpin, as an internal inspector in 2014, flagged some of the troopers now ensnared in the overtime scandal for remarkably high overtime hours but didn’t probe further.
Gilpin has insisted her role then was to document potential problems; superior officers and internal investigators were tasked with following up and addressing misconduct.
She and Baker outlined a series of changes this spring.
State Police disbanded the division the alleged overtime fraud stemmed from, expanded the internal investigatory units, and hired an outside auditor. A new roll call policy and GPS monitoring technology in marked cruisers have bolstered trooper accountability, the department says. And incoming recruits must complete a more thorough questionnaire.
But Gonzalez focused on how other promises have not yet happened, including vows to release quarterly audits of top-paid troopers, install GPS technology in unmarked cruisers and other vehicles. The agency says those efforts are ongoing.
Gonzalez also noted the agency has not yet developed the body camera program it promised, but Baker said earlier this year that the program would not be ready until the end of the year.
When asked about Gonzalez’s charge, Baker praised Gilpin’s work as “exactly the right kind of work to be done.”
“She’s the one who led the investigation, expanded it,” he said. “She’s the one that submitted the documentation to both the attorney general and US attorney’s office that’s led to these indictments and these pleas.”
“There’s obviously a lot more to be done, but my view on this is this investigation and the follow-up on it, is exactly what I had hoped would happen,” Baker added.
Baker and Gonzalez, the state budget chief under former governor Deval Patrick, will face off on Nov. 6.