General Meeting Report:
AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE POST COMMISSION
An Agency Struggling To Find Its Legs Causes Anxiety For Officers
The Massachusetts Association For Professional Law Enforcement (MAPLE) convened its fourteenth general membership meeting last Wednesday at the Martin Institute at Stonehill College in Easton MA. One of the featured speakers was POST Commissioner Larry Calderone, who gave the membership a very rare and valuable look at the inner workings of the state’s newly centralized police regulatory authority. He said that the commission was still struggling to determine the scope of its jurisdiction. There is much confusion about the parameters within which the commission is authorized to operate. There are currently some 4K complaints before the commission, forwarded by local departments across the state. Commissioner Calderone mused whether Chiefs were simply trying to protect themselves, or in some cases deliberately, inundating the commission in order to paralyze it. He said that these complaints must be reduced and he has been a strong advocate of keeping within the strict parameters of the legislation. He said POST Executive Director Jose Zuniga, who previously worked at the Lottery Commission, has been working very hard to get a handle on the concerns of local Chiefs.
Commissioner Calderone explained that complaints are not investigated by the POST Commissioners. Rather, they are investigated by the Division of Standards, a subunit of the commission. It is this Division that has the resources to conduct investigations. Investigators assigned to the division forward their reports to the Director of Standards, who then renders a finding and a recommendation for action on each case. The POST Commission reviews investigative findings and recommendations and then concurs or does not concur with the recommendations. If the Commission concurs with the recommendations, it issues a ruling. An officer has five days to appeal the ruling.
Commissioner Calderone is the police union representative on the Commission. He has logged close to 30 years of service as a Boston Police Officer, and is currently the union president of the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association. He pulled no punches in his comments about POST, stating that in his opinion, the current POST system was foisted upon the Massachusetts Police Community unjustly, as a consequence of the death of George Floyd. The Commissioner said that he believed Massachusetts Police officers were punished for the conduct of officers in other parts of the nation. He also noted that the Mass Police Chiefs dragged their feet, on POST implementation and because of this they found themselves on the outside looking in on the process back in December 2020. He offered several criticisms of the current POST system. He said that there was a real need for additional police presence on the Commission. He also noted that there were issues about due process, which the legislature has acknowledged. However, the legislature has also been adamant in taking a position that it will not make any changes to the current POST system. Calderone said: “ it is here, it may not be what we want, but we have to live with it.” The hearing process for decertification is one area where things remain very unclear. Whether one commissioner or all nine will hear the appeals remains undetermined. There are also issues where the commission may be exceeding its legislative authority. What types of complaints are required to be reviewed is still not settled. Calderone related an issue involving CWOFs by police officers, who have been charged with offenses such as OUI. He said several of the commissioner wanted to terminate an officer, who takes a CWOF. He argued that a CWOF was not a conviction and should not result in the destruction of an officer’s career. He succeeded in persuading the commission to support this position. The commissioner did express his concern that given the uncertainty about jurisdiction and the unresolved issues about due process, he feared that an innocent officer could be injured as a result of a commission action. He added that the sense of uncertainty surrounding the punitive nature of the commission, has rippled through the police service causing officers to be hesitant to take action because of the lack of confidence in the processes currently being utilized to evaluate their conduct.