Reform command as well as culture of state police
The Massachusetts State Police isn’t used to operating under public scrutiny, and the agency’s latest outrage — attempting to destroy payroll and attendance records — only reinforces that a major shakeup in command and culture is necessary. Reform must start at the very top with the creation of a civilian CEO position. This professional would be tasked with managing state police day-today budgetary and human resources duties, while also possessing the authority to negotiate contracts, procure needed equipment and approve personnel policy changes. All other duties related to police patrols and investigations would be left to a second-in-command within state police ranks. Under existing law, the governor appoints a command leader from within the troopers’ executive ranks to lead the 2,100-member organization. Col. Kerry Gilpin is now in charge, having been appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker in the wake of several ongoing state and federal investigations related to payroll abuse, fraud and embezzlement. Gilpin’s nononsense approach is refreshing. She’s closed Troop E, the Mass Turnpike barracks where the payroll scandal initially surfaced. She’s also reduced the workforce at Troop F, which patrols the Boston Seaport District and Logan airport. She’s ordered GPS devices installed in all cruisers and instituted face-toface, end-of-shift meetings between each trooper and supervisor. She’s hired consulting firm Ernst & Young to audit and assess state police policies, protocols and record management systems at a cost of $250,000. These reforms and initiative are all well and good. But, in reality, they’re all long overdue, window dressing in a scandal’s aftermath. It’s not Gilpin’s fault that she is now cast with thinking like a CEO to revamp the ranks. Maybe she has the vision to do it. Maybe she doesn’t. But we believe Gilpin would have a better chance to change the institutional mindset if she had help from a professional with strong oversight credentials. Furthermore, what shakes our confidence in keeping the existing model — and believing it can right itself from within — is last week’s disturbing disclosure that the state police attempted on numerous occasions to destroy dozens of boxes of personnel, attendance and payroll documents that potentially could have a bearing on the ongoing scandal investigations. Already, 47 troopers have been indicted and more might follow as state and federal prosecutors dig deeper into the years of fiscal abuse. The attempt to destroy the records is incredibly stupid — and arrogant. We can not stress enough that an overwhelming majority of state police personnel are honest, hard-working and committed to the safety and security of the commonwealth’s residents. They, as much as we the people, deserve the best organization in which job performance is valued and strong leadership recognized. Troopers should realize — and embrace — that a new order is fundamental to making these requisite changes and restoring public confidence in the agency. Gov. Charlie Baker seems committed to sticking with Gilpin and the existing organizational model to enact change. This means that as each new scandal surfaces, it’s back to the drawing board for a reactive initiative. This is not going to cut it in the long run. The state police must be made accountable, and it starts with a visionary civilian CEO who can safeguard the people’s purse while the troopers focus on keeping us safe.