One Massachusetts state trooper is headed to federal prison for a year and dozens more may follow him. They failed to make ticket quota. The crime officially charged is theft from an agency receiving federal funds. They got paid overtime to run speed traps and they didn’t run speed traps.
State Police Troop E, disbanded in the wake of the scandal, had been raising revenue from Turnpike travelers for a long, long time.
Their mission wasn’t a secret. Twenty years ago the press got hold of a memo directing officers to bring in more revenue. Anybody who didn’t make revenue targets could lose overtime.
Message received. In recent years officers would write a ticket on a regular shift and log it as written on an overtime shift they didn’t show up to. It looked like the overtime shifts were bringing in revenue.
Telling consistent lies within a broad conspiracy is hard. Some officers were turned in by coworkers. Some were caught by inconsistencies in records of tickets. Some were turned in by their own cars. Full time GPS tracking wasn’t enabled but the cars would still phone home once when they were started. “Hi, this is car 54, it’s 6:59 AM, and I’m in Ashland.” Busted.
Governor Baker says the conspiracy goes back a long time. What he means is, don’t blame me.
I don’t blame Governor Baker for starting the problem. I do blame him for not caring that the purpose of traffic regulations is to raise revenue. He didn’t overrule the State Police who demanded a 55 mph speed limit on Route 3. He didn’t oppose the bill lowering city speed limits to 25. He didn’t worry about the above-the-law culture of his police department. He let business go on as usual until the pot started to boil over on his watch.
Massachusetts law says a state employee convicted of job-related misconduct loses his pension. The state will save millions of dollars per year if it doesn’t have to pay out pensions for the dozens of officers involved. Actual savings may be less. The state Supreme Court said a couple years ago that revoking a police officer’s pension is an unconstitutionally excessive fine.
I can see two likely outcomes. One is the government decides not to raise so much money from drivers. The other is the new officers patrolling the Turnpike want to write lots and lots of speeding tickets to stay out of trouble. Because the message is clear: quotas are serious business.
Have you seen more speed traps on the Turnpike this year? Let me know.
The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.