State Police Reform

S.2963, An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth, incorporates the Governor’s State Police reform bill, An Act advancing reform within the Massachusetts State Police, with minor changes. The Governor’s intent was to “improve and modernize State Police hiring, promotions, accountability, and discipline”. These reforms include: 

The necessary changes to allow the Governor to appoint the 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 existing uniformed member of the department. The bill establishes that any 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 provides 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 for the children of State Police killed in the line of duty. This bill creates a cadet program. Under the bill, at least 2/3 of the State Police Officers will still be admitted via the traditional route, while up to 1/3 of the State Police Officers will be admitted through the cadet program. The cadet program will admit cadets for a 1 year training program if they pass a qualifying examination and meet certain physical, age, and other eligibility requirements. Cadets will not carry arms and do 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 to expanded 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 a state police officer must take a promotional examination, and receives points for longevity. Veterans are afforded bonus points added to their exam scores. For commissioned officers, an oral interview is administered, as well. This bill removes the oral interview entirely, eliminating the risk of unconscious bias. Additionally, this bill caps longevity points at lower levels for Sergeant and Lieutenant in order to increase the pool of likely candidates for these positions. 

The Governor’s bill would have established a civil penalty for overtime fraud.  This bill adopts the House version of penalties for overtime fraud, and creates a penalty of treble damages or imprisonment for not more than two years for any law enforcement officer 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 a law enforcement officer receiving payment; or any person who conspires to commit such fraud. 

The bill gives the Colonel more control over discipline. Currently, in order to formally 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 the same for most discipline; however, this bill grants 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 appeal of such suspensions to the Colonel, and then Superior Court but not to Civil Service. Under this bill, an officer subject to an administrative suspension of more than a year has the ability to appeal to Civil Service after one year has elapsed. Additionally, this 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 bill remove gendered pronouns from several sections of the State Police Chapter of the General Laws