(WWLP) — Massachusetts State Police Colonel Christopher Mason announced Tuesday that he recently consolidated two units into one to increase the number of officers available and enhance investigation operations.
According to Massachusetts State Police spokesman Dave Procopio, the new Office of Professional Integrity and Accountability is a combination of Internal Affairs and Staff Inspection units to increase the number of officers available to do both timely internal investigations into complaints and inspections of barracks and units to ensure adherence to Department policies and regulations
The restructuring of those into a single unit created a staff of 20 officers, all holding the rank of detective lieutenant. The unit is under the command of a captain, each of whom is trained to do both internal investigations and department inspections.
Before this, smaller groups of officers did either investigations or staff inspections, not both. The restructured unit creates efficiencies by allowing the OPIA commander greater flexibility and capacity to assign officers to either function as needs arise.
According to Procopio, this will decrease the time needed to complete investigations or inspections. Regular inspections of Department entities is crucial to ensure compliance with the Department’s operational and administrative policies and procedures.
Colonel Mason also announced that the State Police and the Attorney General’s office will regularly engage in a review of all new and open internal investigation cases to determine if any are more appropriately referred to prosecutors for potential criminal investigations.
“Each of these enhancements to our internal control framework help points the way toward a more efficient and accountable agency and support both the public we serve and the members of the Massachusetts State Police who proudly and professionally fulfill our law enforcement mission. We also urge the swift passage of Governor Baker’s pending legislation which would further increase accountability and enhance the Department’s discipline process.”
According to Procopio, the Department’s strategy investigates even minor infractions of policy, which reflect the overwhelming majority of allegations made against members, both sustained and not sustained.
The department will continue to investigate and discipline violations of its code of conduct committed on or off duty, regardless of whether they rise to the level of prosecutable offenses.
The number of external complaints made to the Department has dropped each of the last five years. In 2016, the department received 193 external complaints. That number fell to 142 in 2017, 124 in 2018, 106 in 2019, and 24 this year to date.
The Department additionally is focused on identifying potential job performance issues among members at an early stage and taking corrective actions to prevent potential problematic conduct from repeating and escalating.
Over the past two years this has been accomplished through the implementation of the following:
- Increased training in ethics
- Bias-free policing
- Enhanced time and attendance rules
- Supervisory responsibilities
- Regular payroll audits
- Installation of automated vehicle locator technology in cruisers
- Creation of an early intervention committee
- Establishing a body/cruiser camera program expected to roll out in the coming months
The department has also increased the number of officers assigned to handle trial boards and other disciplinary matters to enhance efficiency and ensure expedited resolution.
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