State Police to eliminate troop, introduce body cameras and GPS trackers after scandal

BOSTON (AP/WHDH) – The state police will begin using body cameras by the end of the year and GPS vehicle locators will be activated in cruisers as part of a series of policy changes announced Monday after the agency was rocked by an overtime scandal and other recent disclosures.

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The reforms announced by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Col. Kelly Gilpin, the commanding officer of the state police, also include disbanding Troop E, which patrols the Massachusetts Turnpike from Boston to the New York state border.

An internal audit last month revealed that nearly 30 current and former troopers may have been paid overtime for shifts never worked in 2016. Some of those troopers have since retired while others have been placed on administrative leave.

“The Massachusetts State Police have a long and honorable history,” Baker said. “The men and women who have worked there for generations earned that honor. That history, that reputation has been tarnished.”

Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey has launched a criminal investigation into the possible overtime abuses and has called on the governor to show more leadership on issues plaguing the state police.

“The reforms announced today are a positive step towards restoring public trust and confidence. I am glad that the administration recognized the need for immediate action, and I thank Colonel Gilpin for her leadership,” Healey said in a statement.

The overtime audit was launched by former state police Col. Richard McKeon, Gilpin’s predecessor.

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Baker hired Gilpin after McKeon and his former second in command, Francis Hughes, abruptly retired in November amid a separate investigation into the alteration of an arrest report involving a judge’s adult daughter. McKeon was accused of ordering a trooper to scrub embarrassing information from the report to protect the judge and the daughter, who was accused of failing sobriety tests and indicating she had a heroin addiction after an October accident in Worcester.

Baker and Gilpin said the changes in policies and procedures announced Monday will take several months to implement and will improve accountability and public safety.

Baker said he hoped troopers would begin wearing body cameras by the end of the year, though it was not immediately clear how many in the department would be included in the initial rollout.

The GPS technology for the automatic vehicle location system has been in cruisers for some time but has never been activated, Gilpin said. Activating the devices will enable supervisors to track the real-time locations of all state police cruisers.

“Its primary purpose is to protect our troopers by tracking their locations and will assist field commanders to more effectively deploy personnel in critical incidents and emergencies,” Gilpin said.

The discrepancies in the overtime payments were discovered for troopers assigned to special enforcement shifts on the Massachusetts Turnpike designed to crack down on dangerous driving.

It was reported last week that payroll records for another state police division, one that patrols Logan International Airport and the Port of Boston, had not been filed with the state comptroller since 2010.

A new reporting policy has been put in place, Gilpin said, but she added that no wrongdoing has been discovered within the unit. A further review over the next 30 days will determine if additional changes are needed in the unit.

Separately, a trooper once engaged to a man convicted of dealing drugs was placed on leave last month pending an investigation into her past. Additional screening will be added for state police recruits, Gilpin said.

Dana Pullman, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, complained the new policies were rolled out with little input from the union. He strongly suggested that body cameras and vehicle locators should be subject to collective bargaining.

While calling the overtime allegations “embarrassing,” he blamed the problems on a tiny portion of the force and said the changes ordered Monday should not amount to a “kneejerk reaction.”

“I realize there’s been some bad press. It’s embarrassing for all of us,” Dana Pullman said. “They’re innocent until proven guilty. There’s a lot of things lacking that we need, that we don’t see here. I don’t see them coming down the pike.”

View a detailed breakdown of the changes below:

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