State Police Reform in the Reform, Shift + Build Act

The Reform, Shift + Build Act incorporates the Governor’s State Police reform bill, An Act Advancing Reform within the Massachusetts State Police, with minor changes. These reforms include:

Necessary legislative changes to allow the governor to appoint State Police Colonel from outside of the State Police. Under current law, prior to appointment the Colonel must be “…a person who has been employed by the department in a rank above the rank of lieutenant.” The changes in this bill eliminates the requirement the appointee must be an employee of the department. Under the changes made in the bill the appointee must have “not less than 10 years of full-time experience as a sworn law enforcement officer and not less than 5 years of full-time experience in a senior administrative or supervisory position in a police force or a military body with law enforcement responsibilities.”

To diversify the State Police, the bill authorizes the Colonel to establish a cadet program, which would provide an alternative path into the department. Members of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Minority State Police Officers Association, and the Massachusetts Association of Women in Law Enforcement have “voiced support” for a cadet program. Currently, applicants for initial employment are selected from a list based on the result of a competitive examination, with points added for veterans and children of State Police killed in the line of duty. Under the bill no fewer than 2/3 of State Police Officers would still be admitted via this traditional route. The bill would create a cadet program, which would admit cadets for a 1 year training program if they pass a qualifying examination and meet certain physical, age and other eligibility requirements. Cadets would not carry arms, and would not have the power of arrest. Upon the successful completion of the program, Cadets may be appointed as uniformed members of the state police. A minor change was made to this section via amendment in the Senate debate. Under the governor’s proposal, successful cadets receive creditable service for time as cadets upon appointment as State Police officers, the amendment expands creditable service eligibility if the cadet joins another state or municipal law enforcement agency.

The bill makes changes to State Police promotions formulas, and removes the oral interview component for promotion to commissioned officer. Currently, for promotions to ranks below lieutenant an officer must take a promotional examination and will receive points for longevity. Veterans are afforded bonus points. For commissioned officers, an oral interview is is administered as well. This bill removes the oral interview entirely, eliminating the risk of unconscious bias. Additionally, this bill increases the rate at which longevity points accrue for Sargent and Lieutenant in order to increase the pool of eligible candidates for these positions.

The bill creates a civil penalty for overtime fraud. The bill creates a civil penalty for any police officer â€œemployed by a state agency or state authority, …or by a city or town…” who knowingly submits a false or fraudulent claim of hours worked for payment and receives payment; knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used a false record or statement material to a fraudulent claim of hours worked for payment that results in any police officer receiving that payment; or any person who conspires to commit such fraud.  Such persons shall be liable to that state agency, state authority, or city or town for a civil penalty of treble damages.  

The bill gives the Colonel more control over discipline. Currently, in order to discipline a State Police Officer, they are first tried by a board to be appointed by the Colonel. They then have the ability to appeal to the Civil Service Commission or appeal to Colonel. Decisions of the civil service commission can be appealed in Superior Court, as can decisions of the Colonel. That process remains for most discipline, however this bill would grant the Colonel new powers to administratively suspend an officer without pay, after notice and a hearing, in cases where: 1) a criminal complaint or indictment has issued; 2) the department has referred a case to any prosecutorial agency for review for prosecution; or 3) there are reasonable grounds to believe the officer has engaged in misconduct that violates the public trust. The governor’s bill would have permitted an appeal of such suspensions to the Colonel, and then superior court but not Civil Service. Under the Senate bill, an officer subject to an administrative suspension of more than a year would have the ability to appeal to Civil Service or to the Colonel. Additionally, the bill authorizes the Colonel to administer less serious discipline, that does not involve a suspension of pay, loss of accrued vacation time, loss of rank or seniority, or termination, without a trial board. This lesser discipline cannot be appealed to Civil Service, but may be appealed to the Colonel and Superior Court.

Finally, both the Governor’s bill and this bill remove gendered pronouns from several sections of the State Police Chapter of the General Laws.