Where’s the accountability of the State Police?
An unconventional amount of “restructuring” has been happening in the last few months in the top brass of the Massachusetts State Police.
Of course, in this case “restructuring” appears to be a euphemism for what looks more like a leadership and institutional crisis at the agency. In the last three months, four high-ranking officials have retired in the wake of two cases that raise questions of integrity and accountability within the force.
It began with the October arrest of Alli Bibaud, the daughter of a Worcester judge, for driving under the influence. According to the original report, she ranted that her father would be furious about her arrest, admitted to trading sex for heroin, and offered the trooper sex in return for leniency. Days later, the blog Turtleboy Sports wrote a post alleging that high-level state authorities forced troopers to edit out those comments from Bibaud’s report to avoid embarrassing the judge. Those troopers followed with lawsuits claiming the police brass illegally coerced them to revise the document, threatened to fire them, and punished them unfairly.
The fallout continued when Colonel Richard McKeon, the head of the state police, and his deputy, Francis Hughes, announced their retirement. McKeon has claimed he did nothing wrong in ordering the removal of insensitive comments toward a victim of opioid addiction, and that police reports are routinely edited.
Maybe, but it’s highly unusual and inappropriate for the leader of a law enforcement agency to get personally involved in the altering of an arrest report of a judge’s daughter. How often did he personally order arrest reports redacted? How often are regular folks granted the same benevolence? Other significant questions remain unanswered. How did McKeon learn that a judge’s daughter had been arrested to begin with?
The office of Attorney General Maura Healey is conducting a probe of the arrest and its handling by the state police. In the meantime, McKeon and Hughes retired with an honorable discharge, while two other high-ranking officials also involved, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Risteen and Major Susan Anderson, retired with a general discharge last Friday.
Then there’s the second incident — perhaps more damning, and indicative of an agency that plays favorites — in which both Risteen and Anderson are also implicated. It involves Risteen’s former girlfriend, Leigha Genduso, who was hired in 2014 as a state trooper after admitting in federal court a decade ago to laundering money and dealing marijuana. (She avoided charges in exchange for testifying against her former fiance.)
It wasn’t until after Genduso’s criminal background was exposed — in the Turtleboy Sports blog — that Risteen and Anderson retired. Genduso was suspended pending an internal affairs investigation.
Aside from the attorney general’s investigation, an independent review is also underway. The agency needs to issue a full accounting of whether Bibaud was given preferential treatment, and why someone thought trooper Genduso was a suitable hire for the force. The two incidents, while perhaps not directly connected, paint a picture of a dysfunctional agency.
In the meantime, allowing top-ranked officers to retire raises questions about the thoroughness of the investigation; an honorable discharge reduces the incentive to cooperate. While authorities try to get to the bottom of the two cases, the State Police can start rebuilding public trust by putting a hold on any more discharges for agency leaders until the investigations are complete.