Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced reforms to the state’s scandal-plagued state police earlier this month including the implementation of body cams, GPS vehicle monitoring, and third-party audits of staffing levels and overtime pay, in light of reports illustrating how officers were collecting huge six-figure overtime payouts, in some cases for shifts that they did not work.
According to a March report in The Boston Globe, state police pay was higher than previously reported and the data had been concealed for years:
Payroll records for an entire 140-trooper State Police division — including some of the department’s highest earners — have been hidden from public view and weren’t filed with the state comptroller for several years, the Globe has found.
The records for Troop F, which polices Logan International Airport and parts of the Seaport, among other areas, accounted for more than $32.5 million in spending last year and portray a lucrative, overtime-laden operation that outpaces the compensation totals of troopers working in other State Police divisions.
The Globe noted that “at least 79 percent of Troop F made more last year than Governor Charlie Baker, who earned $151,800,” and “fourteen Troop F members earned more in overtime than in base pay, including Michael S. Fiore, who collected $164,607 for overtime and $134,133 in base pay.”
For example, Thomas J. Coffey was paid $351,774 last year, including $137,091 in overtime pay, making him the second-highest earner in the agency, behind only the former superintendent. Neil R. Calnan collected $309,315, including $157,282 in overtime pay, working for Troop F.
Although Troop F was at the time under the command of the State Police, its pay came via Massport, an independent public agency that protects airports and a local seaport, which had not been collecting reports on officer pay, allowing payouts to slip out of control. As a part of the reforms, Troop F will in the future be paid directly through the State Police. After at least 30 officers from Troop E were found to be collecting overtime payments for shifts they did not work, it was disbanded and its jurisdiction absorbed by other state and local police agencies.
State Police vehicles are already equipped with GPS monitoring systems, but under the new policies they will be activated to make sure that officers are working when they claim to be doing so.
“The Massachusetts State Police swore an oath to the citizens of the Commonwealth to fulfill their duties with dignity and integrity, and a series of recent incidents has sadly tarnished the department’s trust with the public. To restore transparency and accountability, our administration has collaborated with [State Police Col. Kerry Gilpin] on these reforms and I look forward to their swift implementation,” Gov. Baker said in a statement according to Boston Magazine.
State Police Col. Kerry Gilpin said, “These reforms are a product of collaboration between my command staff, the administration, and me, with the shared goal of increasing the efficiency, transparency and accountability of the State Police while further enhancing our capabilities to protect everyone who lives in, works, and travels through our state. I believe these reforms will improve the entire department from top to bottom, and better serve our dedicated troopers and the public. Their implementation will require much planning and hard work. We are committed to that effort.”
Independent auditors will be employed to keep an eye on overtime pay levels, and those officers among the department’s top 50 overtime pay recipients will trigger an automatic audit.
Additionally, State Police will strengthen background checks of new hires, a reform aimed at cleaning up the department’s image after an officer admitted in court to having helped an ex-boyfriend sell marijuana.
At the press conference announcing the policy changes, Gov. Baker indicated that some officers could face charges or loss of pension pending an attorney general investigation.
CBS Boston is reporting that State Police payroll director Denise Ezekiel pleaded not guilty on Monday after she was charged with larceny over $500 for allegedly misappropriating $23,900 from the State Police payroll fund.