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Division of State Police Oversight 2019 Annual Report: Investigations, Audits and Reviews

The Division of State Police Oversight ("Division") conducted a variety of investigations, reviews and audits related to the efficiency and integrity of the Massachusetts State Police's ("MSP") operations, organizational structure and management functions. Below is a summary of some of this work.

Table of Contents

I. Paid Details and Travel Time Policy

The Division conducted a comprehensive review of the MSP’s travel time requirement in the MSP’s paid detail policy.6 The travel time requirement complements the MSP policy, which strictly prohibits “overlapping time.”

Under the overlapping time policy, troopers cannot receive compensation for regular shift hours that overlap with detail hours.

To account for this overlap, troopers must utilize personal or vacation leave during their regular shift hours while working the detail. For example, if a trooper is scheduled to work a regular shift from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. but leaves the shift to work a paid detail beginning at 3:00 p.m. that same day, the trooper would have to utilize two hours of personal or vacation leave to account for the overlapping time.

The travel time section of the paid detail policy mirrors this rationale by requiring that troopers also utilize personal or vacation leave to account for any overlap resulting from the time traveled between a regular shift and the paid detail. So, if it takes the same trooper referenced above thirty minutes to travel to the scheduled paid detail (which begins at 3:00 p.m.) and the trooper accordingly leaves their regular shift at 2:30 p.m., they would also have to use an additional thirty minutes of personal or vacation leave to account for the time it takes to the paid detail.

The Division reviewed time and attendance records of all troopers who worked a paid detail at Logan International Airport (“Airport”)7 on any date from January 2013 through June 2018. This review revealed that the vast majority of troopers who work paid details at the Airport did not use accrued vacation or personal leave time to account for their travel time to or from a paid detail at the Airport.

As a result of its review, and in order to promote integrity in time and attendance procedures as they relate to the MSP’s travel time requirements, the Division recommended that all MSP troopers include the actual start and end times of all shifts and paid details in individual time-and-attendance records.

The Division also recommended that troopers’ time-and-attendance records include the actual travel time necessary for any travel to or from an overlapping paid detail, as well as clear and uniform accounting of leave time utilized specifically as travel time. These changes ensure that troopers are using the necessary amount of accrued vacation or personal leave time to fully account for their travel to or from a detail, as well as any shift overlap. The Division concluded its review and the MSP has made changes to the travel time section of the paid detail policy.

II. Paid Detail Offices

In 2019, the Division also reviewed the role of the Paid Detail Officer and other troopers who work in the Paid Detail Office (“PDO”) of each troop within the Division of Field Services (“DFS”). This review revealed that, by and large, each PDO in each troop performs similar functions and follows the same processes in administering paid details within its respective troop’s jurisdictional boundaries. The one notable exception is Troop F, which has unique operational and security responsibilities.

The Division conducted on-site reviews of the practices and procedures of the individual troop PDOs, as well as the MSP Receivables Unit8 at MSP General Headquarters (“GHQ”). The Division also conducted interviews of each Paid Detail Officer, the assistants and the office staff. The purpose of the Division’s review was threefold:

  1. to identify the staffing level of troopers and civilians working in each PDO and the Receivables Unit at GHQ;
  2. to identify the duties performed by troopers assigned to the PDOs; and
  3. acquire an understanding of the administrative processes regarding paid details and overtime assignments.

The staffing level and salaries of all troopers and civilians administering paid details (i.e., working in the PDOs) are found in Table 1 below.

Table 1 of the DSPO annual report 2019
Table 1. Current staffing, annual and average salary of the PDOs and the Receivables Unit

The PDO for each troop operates and administers paid details following the procedure outlined below:

  • Each year, all troopers who want to work paid details notify the respective troop PDO of their primary troop choice.9
  • On a weekly basis, troopers notify the PDO of the days and times they are available to work paid details for the following week.
  • When public agencies and private companies request paid details, the PDO gathers relevant detail location and safety information in order to make a safety assessment and determine the number of troopers to assign to the detail.10
  • The PDOs then assign the details on an equitable basis (priority is given to the troopers who worked the fewest detail hours during the previous five weeks).
  • Any unfilled details are offered to other troopers in the specific troop, the entire MSP and outside local law enforcement, respectively.
  • Once details are completed, the PDO prepares invoices and payroll information for processing by the civilian staff at the Receivables Unit, who verify and enter all information into the Commonwealth’s accounting systems, collect payments from the private companies and public agencies, and issue payments to troopers.

The methods of communication between troopers, PDOs and the Receivables Unit throughout the paid detail process take various forms: written paper communication, telephone, fax, email and the use of Google Documents. The PDOs in each troop also utilize a Microsoft Access Paid Detail Office Program that assists in tracking troopers’ detail hours and equitably assigning details. However, while each troop’s Paid Detail Program is similar, the programs currently do not have the ability to interface and communicate with each other or with GHQ.

As a result of its review, the Division found that the PDOs lack a centralized, electronic, interconnected management system for administering paid details.

This stems from an absence of modern electronic communication systems between troops and GHQ, resulting in inefficient and redundant work product throughout the entire process. The Division recommended that the MSP consider creating one central PDO at GHQ responsible for the administration and billing of all paid details utilizing uniform practices with a fully electronic, web-based operational platform.11 From the initial vendor requests to scheduling, and from collecting payments from vendors to paying troopers, this should eliminate the communication gaps and redundant practices throughout the current troop-based PDO systems.

More so, the current staffing model where PDOs are exclusively staffed with troopers is costly and inefficient given the highly administrative and civilian nature of the work performed at the PDOs. The sole task of troopers working in PDOs that requires law enforcement training is the decision regarding the safety requirements for each detail. The remainder of troopers’ work in the PDOs is administrative in nature.

The salaries of troopers working in the PDOs are also considerably larger compared to civilians performing similar work at GHQ. Based on Table 1 above, the average salary of a civilian employee in the Receivables Unit is $82,782 whereas the average salary of a trooper in the PDOs is $107,441. As a result, staffing PDOs exclusively with troopers costs the MSP at least $24,658 annually per trooper with a total combined extra annual cost of $591,792 for the current twenty-four troopers. Further, all troopers working in the administrative environment of the PDOs have completed the MSP’s academy at an average cost of $50,681 per trooper for a total of $1,216,348 for all twenty-four troopers.12

In addition to creating one central PDO at GHQ, the Division recommended civilianizing a substantial portion of staff at the proposed central PDO. This would save money and allow the MSP to redeploy much-needed troopers. The MSP is currently reviewing the Division’s recommendations in this regard.

III. Overtime Shifts

The overtime fraud that occurred in Troop E involved overtime shifts worked directly before a regular shift, after a regular shift or on a trooper’s day off. These four-hour highway patrol shifts were part of the now-defunct Accident Injury Reduction Effort (“AIRE”) program, which was aimed at reducing accidents, injuries and fatalities on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Such shifts were available to Troop E troopers on a daily basis. While not available as frequently in the other MSP troops, there were, and still are, ample opportunities to work similar four-hour highway patrol overtime shifts in Troops A, B, C, D and H.13

The Division is conducting its own systematic and historical review of four-hour highway patrol overtime shifts at the MSP. The Division’s review requires the compilation, utilization and comparison of multiple sources of large volumes of data and records. Preliminary findings from this review include similar deficiencies in oversight, accountability and internal controls that led to the abuses of overtime in Troop E.

As a result, the Division recommended stricter supervision and oversight of all shifts by supervisors and command staff, as well as implementation of proper audit trails and internal controls to confirm time and attendance.

The MSP has already implemented a multitude of new policies and procedures to ensure consistent recording of time and attendance for all troopers. These new policies and procedures include real-time Automatic Vehicle Locator (“AVL”) technology in all cruisers, stringent and frequent auditing of overtime shifts, face-to-face contact with supervisors at the start and end of all shifts, and the utilization of electronic time-stamped motor vehicle citations for speeding and other motor vehicle violations. All of these new policies and procedures will provide a more sophisticated and efficient platform to ensure trooper accountability with regard to time and attendance.

6 MSP allows sworn officers on full duty status to work paid details. A paid detail is a voluntary assignment that is paid for by an outside entity but which has been authorized by the MSP. The current pay rate for all paid details is $50 per hour.

7 Troop F of the MSP is responsible for the policing and security of all Massport properties, including Logan International Airport.

8 The MSP Receivables Unit is responsible for billing of all public and private vendors who utilize MSP troopers for paid details, collection of paid detail payments from vendors and paying troopers who work paid details.

9 For example, troopers working in the DFS may choose to work paid details in the troop to which they are assigned or the troop where they reside.

10 With regard to requests for details from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, PDOs routinely defer to the resident engineers on the road construction jobs to determine the number of troopers required and other safety requirements.

11 The Division did not recommend centralizing Troop F to GHQ given its unique operational and security responsibilities.

12 This figure represents the average cost per recruit as outlined in the report of the “Special Commission on the Hiring and Promotional Practices of the Massachusetts State Police” dated December 2018.

13 For purposes of MSP patrolling in the DFS, Massachusetts is divided into five different troop patrol areas identified by letter: Troop A covers the northeast, Troop B the west, Troop C central, Troop D southeast and Troop H metro Boston.

Date published: February 26, 2020
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