Monday, September 30, 2019

Beacon Hill is silent over State Police problems

This sums up what most aware citizens know... the Legislature doesn't want to take on the State Cops.

 By Matt Rocheleau Globe Staff,September 30, 2019, 8:13 a.m.

Governor Charlie Baker and Colonel Kerry Gilpin spoke at an April 2018 press conference to announce a series of reforms to policies and procedures at the Massachusetts State Police. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff file/Globe staff
The Massachusetts State Police force has weathered a widespread fraud probe, was found to have discriminated in its hiring, and has faced repeated allegations of systemic corruption and coverups over the past two years.
Yet even as new cases of misconduct emerge, including the indictment on Sept. 18 of a trooper who allegedly fired a rifle at an unarmed ATV rider on a Boston highway, the response on Beacon Hill has been roughly the same: crickets.
“I don’t get it,” said Kevin M. Burke, a former legislator, prosecutor, and state public safety chief who the State Police hired to investigate one such scandal. “I’m mystified and frankly have been for a few months now.”
While lawmakers have wielded their bully pulpits to publicly bash other officials and closely scrutinize other agencies mired in controversy, the state’s largest law enforcement agency has remained virtually unchallenged.
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“The problem is there’s just too often a hesitancy to look at the State Police,” said Senator James Eldridge, a member of the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, who wants to hold oversight hearings. “It’s time for us to take a deeper look.”
Eldridge and several State House observers attributed the inaction to fears that criticism could lead to political blowback, especially from a historically strong — though now scandal-ridden — troopers’ union. That, combined with a general reticence to take on law enforcement, appears to underpin the political establishment’s passive approach, they noted.
Several lawmakers, including House Speaker Robert DeLeo, have defended their response by pointing to a few measures that were tucked into the statewide budget in the summer of 2018 to try to bolster accountability in the department. They expressed hope that those efforts will pay off down the road. But those measures, such as the creation of an independent auditing unit, have been modest and slow to take root.
“Overall, the State Police have gotten a bye from the political establishment in the Commonwealth,” said Boston University professor Tobe Berkovitz, who specializes in political campaigns and communication. “It just befuddles me.”
Governor Charlie Baker responded to recent requests for comment about State Police as he usually does: with a version of a statement that notes he is pleased with a slate of reforms announced early last year by Colonel Kerry Gilpin, as well as the agency’s efforts since.
“The Department has made significant progress to increase transparency and accountability,” said the statement from Baker spokeswoman Sarah Finlaw. The statement highlighted the department’s installation of GPS technology in cruisers, the start of a body camera pilot program, and internal payroll audits.
Yet, several of the pledged reforms are unfinished and significantly overdue, and the rest of the changes have failed to slow the drumbeat of controversy at the agency.
The Globe reached out to more than a dozen lawmakers in recent weeks, including leaders of key committees focused on public safety issues and oversight. About half either declined to comment about State Police or did not respond to repeated requests, including Senate President Karen Spilka.
Those who did weigh in called the problems swirling around State Police deeply “troubling” and “disturbing.” But they said they had no plans to act.
Senator John Keenan, chair of the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, said he hasn’t sought information from State Police because of the ongoing criminal probes.


At September 30, 2019 at 3:54 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's all send Rep Eldridge an email praising him for being willing to take this on, and copy our own reps and senators to encourage them to do the same. Ignoring this as the legislature is now doing is tantamount to allowing the problems to continue

At September 30, 2019 at 4:03 PM , Blogger jim pillsbury said...

now why didn't I think of that. Great idea.
I just called his office and his aid was very receptive to my compliment.
Here's the contact info
(617) 722-1120

At September 30, 2019 at 4:29 PM , Blogger jim pillsbury said...

I sent Karen Spilka a note asking her to get on board with hearings for the State Police.

At October 1, 2019 at 11:09 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just called Eldridges office and then sent an email and copied Robinson, Gentile and Lewis. Let's see if we can make something happen here. Thanks for posting JIm

At October 1, 2019 at 11:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so troubling to read that our electeds don't see the need to hold those in the employee of the state accoutable for their criminal behavior. Maybe they are protecting themselves from something? What other reason could there be?

At October 1, 2019 at 2:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The governor should be taking action as well as the legislature. Why is it that here in MA these different pieces of government don't seem to get the seriousness of this mess. Corrupt cops are a big deal and the fact they don't recognize that is more than unsettling.


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