Following overtime fraud and persistent failure to meet ticket quota, Governor Baker disbanded Massachusetts State Police Troop E. About 20 officers have retired or been suspended. They took overtime speed trap shifts and didn’t write speeding tickets. The rest, who made quota or didn’t get caught, will be reassigned to other troops.
Some editorials called it progress. One called it damage control.
In my opinion Baker doesn’t really care one way or the other. He didn’t make State Police and Turnpike officials corrupt. He didn’t try to reform anything until the press made him.
The Troop E scandal follows a series of unfavorable news stories about State Police. A drunk officer killed two women. State Police hired a drug dealer. Top officers tried to cover up a judge’s daughter’s arrest. Troop E fixed the bidding for a tow contract. Professional courtesy, drug dealing, and corruption are not new, but the stories came too close together. The sense was something had to be done.
The proposed reforms are
- Eliminate Troop E — the Massachusetts Turnpike’s private police force — and reassign its troopers to other barracks.
- Track cruisers with GPS.
- Equip officers with body cameras.
- Audit the highest paid officers.
- Expand the internal affairs department.
Meanwhile, we’re watching the next domino.
The Massachusetts Port Authority also has a mercenary force. F Troop. They don’t write as many speeding tickets as their neighbors to the left. They sit and watch the drop off lane at Logan Airport. They make sure city police don’t go into Statie turf on the streets of South Boston. They decide which drunk guy in airport security goes to jail and which is a VIP.
Sometimes the job is tougher than running speed traps, but the pay is better too. The Port Authority illegally kept pay records secret until fallout from other scandals got people looking. Now we know why. Police working for the Port Authority make $300,000 per year doing jobs regular officers could do for less than a third as much.
I see another candidate for abolition.
Baker’s reforms are a start, but an editorial noted this isn’t the first time a governor has tried to clean up the State Police. Governor Baker admitted that he would need union permission for some changes.
I don’t think his heart will be in it now that the crisis is over. Baker is at the end of a long line of governors who at best just don’t care. Let’s look at how recent governors treated drivers.
Dukakis was an anti-car activist, but at least a sincere one — he rode the subway to work. Weld can be remembered for keeping speed limits at 55 and 65 while he drove much faster (and got a ticket after crossing the line into New York). Swift took a helicopter to beat holiday traffic. Romney said he wouldn’t support any new highway construction. Patrick was another anti-car activist, the hypocritcal kind who wants mass transit for us and cars for himself.
As for Baker’s announcement, Joe Battenfeld at the Boston Herald called it “a transparent case of damage control” as Democrats see a political opportunity. The Berkshire Eagle saw a good start that needs a lot more effort.
At best it’s only a start. Troop E is gone. The Turnpike is still meant to be a source of overtime pay and speeding tickets, shared among more badges than before.
Governor Baker needs to continue with three reforms:
- Raise speed limits.
- End structural overtime, work assignments designed to have as many people as possible earning overtime.
- End police details at construction sites and assign traffic direction duty to people who don’t consider holding a stop sign beneath their dignity.
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