Re­form com­mand as well as cul­ture of state po­lice

Boston Herald - - OPINION -

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.

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