Dear Governor Baker,
The Massachusetts Association For Professional Law Enforcement is an organization of current and former police officers, and criminal justice educators, who are committed to improving the quality of law enforcement in this Commonwealth. The purpose of this letter is to address recent developments involving the Massachusetts State Police. Several of our members are retired or former members of the Department.
The Massachusetts State Police has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the most professional law enforcement organizations in the nation. Recent scandals threaten to undermine that reputation. We feel compelled to express our concerns and offer some recommendations to you.
We preface our remarks by stating that our criticism is not intended to call into question the capability of the current Colonel. Rather, our focus is to identify structural issues within the organization that we believe are negatively impacting the Department’s ability to provide quality service to the citizens of this Commonwealth
The position of Colonel, as it is currently established, has lacked an effective selection process for ensuring the best possible appointment. The appointment itself is also “open ended” running coterminous with the Governor. This arrangement fails to provide the necessary independence for effective leadership to occur. The State Police Colonel holds a very powerful and influential position. He or she has complete administrative and operational control over the department. Best practices , with regard to police management, would indicate that a selection process should be established, that is open and competitive. Qualified candidates, both inside and outside the Department, should be eligible to apply, to ensure the best possible selection. Additionally, the Colonel should serve under a term contract, with a provision that allows for removal for “just cause”. Such an arrangement would provide the necessary independence essential for the development of effective leadership.
The State Police have also been perennially vulnerable to influences from the legislature. This has served to create a system, where internal duty assignments are often made on the basis of political influence, rather than on merit and competence. Such a condition is very demoralizing for the rank and file. Policies and procedures must be developed to limit this influence.
The disciplinary system of the former Division of State Police was vital in establishing the public trust and confidence, that this former agency enjoyed. This process was modified after state police consolidation in 1992, adding an additional layer of review by the Civil Service Commission. This has protracted the administration of discipline, making it less effective.
The former Division of State Police held a pre-eminent position with regard to training. Under the new Department of State Police, the size of recruit classes have dramatically expanded, diminishing the ability of background investigators and training instructors, to provide the individual attention necessary to ensure that recruits receive proper screening and mentoring. Requests for annual budget appropriations to fund “maintenance classes” of no more than 50 members have historically fallen on deaf ears.
Quality first line supervision is absolutely essential for maintaining the integrity of any police force. Troopers and sergeants are currently in the same collective bargaining unit. This creates a significant conflict of interest. First line supervisors find themselves torn between their loyalty to fellow union members, and the Department’s need to provide proper oversight and guidance of the rank and file.
Our organization recognizes that your administration is not responsible for the situation currently affecting the state police. However, several recent incidents suggest that inadequate policies of the past are bearing a bitter fruit. We strongly recommend that you authorize the formation of a gubernatorial commission to investigate the effectiveness, readiness and administration of the Massachusetts State Police. The Massachusetts Association For Professional Law Enforcement stands ready to assist you in any way that we can.
Dennis J. Galvin
(Major, MSP retired)