(Massachusetts State Police)
by Matt Murphy, State House News Service
BOSTON (State House News Service) — Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday detailed new legislation he intends to file that would allow future heads of the State Police to be hired from outside the agency, one of multiple reforms the administration is seeking to the department's hiring, promotion and disciplinary policies.
Baker in November tapped Lt Col. Christopher Mason to succeed Kerry Gilpin as colonel and superintendent of the State Police, charging him with restoring public trust in the department after a series of scandals cast a shadow over the force.
Gilpin retired after two years leading the State Police during a period in which a number of troopers faced federal criminal charges for fabricating overtime shifts. Gilpin implemented eforms in response to the overtime scandal, including the elimination of Troop E, which policed the Massachusetts Turnpike where the overtime abuses were concentrated.
Baker and Mason traveled to New Braintree on Thursday to address a new recruiting class and lay out a vision for how the State Police should operate.
The bill Baker plans to file would not only allow him or future governors to recruit for a superintendent from outside the force, but it would make it easier for superiors to suspend officers when they are charged with serious offenses.
The legislation would also create a new "fraudulent pay statute" that would allow the state or municipalities to recoup triple damages from police officers who submit false time sheets.
Baker said the bill would empower Mason to "take swift action against Troopers who do not live up to the oath they swore, promote a more diverse workforce and bring Department policies in line with modern management practices," according to a statement.
Mason identified diversity as one of his top priorities when he was introduced at a press conference in November. The administration described the 85th Recruit Training Troop as one believed to be among the largest and most diverse pools of trooper candidates in State Police history.
The legislation Baker detailed to the recruiting class would authorize the creation of a cadet program as a alternate route to the State Police Academy that they believe would diversify the pool of recruits. It would also eliminate the oral interview component of the scoring for promotion to lieutenant or captain.
Mason said that in the past two months the State Police has activated GPS on nearly 3,000 cruisers and sent out a solicitation for a contract for 1,500 body cameras and 1,000 in-car video systems.
The superintendent said he has also implemented ethics training and instruction at the Academy on empathy and de-escalation skills for trooper recruits, and created a new position that will focus on diversity recruiting from underrepresented communities.
WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports