OIG Annual Report 2021: Division of State Police Oversight

Part VII of the Office of the Inspector General's 2021 Annual Report

 The Legislature created the Division of State Police Oversight (State Police Division) as an independent unit responsible for monitoring the quality, efficiency and integrity of the Massachusetts State Police (MSP).13 The State Police Division’s mission encompasses, but is not limited to (1) monitoring the quality, efficiency and integrity of the MSP’s operations, organizational structure and management functions; (2) seeking to prevent, detect and correct fraud, waste and abuse in the expenditure of public funds; and (3) monitoring policy changes instituted as a result of the MSP’s certification or accreditation by a state or national police accrediting agency pursuant to Section 73 of Chapter 22C of the Massachusetts General Laws.

Since its inception in 2018, the State Police Division has conducted multiple audits and reviews aimed at detecting, correcting and preventing fraud, waste and abuse related to overtime and paid details, which represent a significant portion of the MSP’s annual budget. This work included a review of the MSP’s travel time policy, a comprehensive audit of overtime shifts in all MSP troops and, most recently, a review of the MSP’s eight-hour paid details. The State Police Division has also worked with the MSP to enhance its internal controls to prevent the type of overtime abuse that occurred at the MSP prior to 2018.14 The State Police Division conducted all this work while continuing to monitor the MSP’s progress towards meeting professional law enforcement standards and to becoming certified or accredited by the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission. 

Lastly, the State Police Division has worked collaboratively with the Office’s Civil Recovery Unit (CRU) and the Attorney General’s Office to recover unearned pay from troopers who claimed to have worked overtime shifts in Troop E that they had not worked or had worked only partially. Those troopers are no longer employed by the MSP. As a result of the CRU and State Police Division’s efforts, in 2021 eleven former troopers agreed to pay back more than $236,000 in unearned compensation for hours that they did not work.15

The State Police Division’s enabling statute requires it to publish an annual report each March. Below are highlights from that report.

Table of Contents

I. Audits, Investigations and Reviews

A. Review of Highway Overtime Shifts in All Troops

In 2021, the State Police Division completed a review across all six MSP troops of federally funded overtime shifts. This review began in 2020 with an analysis of 207 overtime shifts that troopers in Troop A worked in 2016. In 2021, the State Police Division analyzed 1,029 overtime shifts that troopers in the other five MSP troops worked in 2016. These four-hour overtime shifts were special enforcement highway patrols designed to reduce highway crashes and increase highway safety. They were similar to the Accident Injury Reduction Effort (AIRE) shifts that were at the center of the overtime abuse by troopers in the now-abolished Troop E.16 The State Police Division conducted this comprehensive review as part of its commitment to examine whether overtime abuses comparable to those in Troop E existed in other troops. Through this work, the State Police Division and the MSP were able to identify controls and safeguards that the MSP should put in place to prevent overtime abuse in the future. 

Across all six troops, the State Police Division found 490 shifts (40% of all shifts) in which troopers were absent for at least 15 minutes of the shift. While the State Police Division did not find a comparable scale of overtime abuse as in Troop E, the division did find that troopers were absent for 447.9 hours – or 9% – of the hours the troopers should have worked. These findings are based on reasonable conclusions drawn from a comparison of troopers’ cruiser radio records and individual troopers’ work schedules. They are not definitive findings that the trooper was engaged in wrongdoing or not working in any law enforcement capacity. 

The State Police Division also found that the MSP scheduled 88% of the overtime shifts immediately before or after troopers’ regular shifts. Scheduling overtime shifts so that they directly abut troopers’ regular shifts may run counter to the MSP’s requirements that it schedule these shifts according to relevant crash and arrest statistics to maximize the impact of the patrols. Additionally, this scheduling practice does not take account of a trooper’s travel time between their overtime patrol area and their location at the beginning or end of a regular shift. As a result, their travel encroaches on either the federally funded four-hour overtime assignment or their regular shift. The State Police Division recommended that the MSP alter the start time of all federally funded highway overtime shifts so that they do not directly abut the beginning or end of a trooper’s regular shift or duty assignment. 

Furthermore, in its 2020 annual report, the State Police Division recommended that the MSP implement mandatory training for all troopers to prevent overtime abuse. In 2021, the MSP created a mandatory online training for all troopers entitled Ethics: Time, Attendance and Accountability. This comprehensive training focuses on frontline supervisory roles and responsibilities in order to prevent time fraud and abuse, including overtime abuse. After a full review of the training, the State Police Division recommended that the MSP craft a separate, additional training for supervisors and managers tailored to their unique responsibilities in monitoring and preventing overtime abuse.

B. Review of Eight-Hour Paid Details

Paid police details are optional work assignments that generally involve security or road construction safety and that troopers can work in addition to their regular work schedule. Paid details can represent a significant source of supplemental income for troopers. Public and private entities pay for police details. 

Until July 2020, MSP policy and Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) rules guaranteed troopers a minimum of four hours of pay at $50 per hour for any detail that lasted four hours or less. If a detail lasted more than four hours, then the trooper was guaranteed eight hours of pay. For instance, if a trooper worked six hours at a detail, the trooper would be paid for eight hours of detail pay. Importantly, however, if a detail was scheduled to last eight hours but the trooper ultimately worked four hours or less, the trooper was paid for four hours.

In 2021, the State Police Division reviewed over 1,600 eight-hour details in 2016 for which the trooper claimed to have worked between four and five hours.  Again, at that time in 2016, troopers received eight hours of pay for any eight-hour detail lasting more than four hours. The purpose of this review was to determine whether troopers inflated the number of hours they reported working in order to receive eight hours of pay. 

The State Police Division found that in 50% of the cases in which a trooper reported working between four and five hours of an eight-hour detail, corresponding cruiser radio records indicated the trooper worked less than four hours. From a cost perspective, this resulted in the potential over-payment of more than $150,000 to troopers for over 3,300 hours not worked. In addition, this conduct violated the MSP’s rules regarding paid details. It also was an abuse of their position as sworn law enforcement officers.

The State Police Division also found that on July 31, 2020, the MSP and the State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM) amended the current CBA in a way that can promote waste of public funds.17 In particular, when a trooper signs up for an eight-hour detail, the CBA now requires the trooper to be paid for eight hours regardless of how long the detail lasts. For example, if an eight-hour detail lasts an hour, the trooper is paid for eight hours. The MSP also placed responsibility for deciding whether details should be classified as four-hour or eight-hour details on the public and private entities that request the details.

Like everyone else, troopers should be paid for the actual hours they work. However, the Office recognizes that troopers historically have been guaranteed eight hours of pay for details that lasted more than four hours. The State Police Division therefore recommended that the MSP limit full payment of eight-hour details to instances where the trooper works more than four hours of the eight-hour detail. The State Police Division further recommended that the MSP take a more active role in determining and classifying four-hour and eight-hour paid details to reduce the waste of public funds.

II. Other Activities

A. The Staffing Allocation Working Group

In the spring of 2021, the MSP created the Staffing Allocation Working Group (Working Group). One purpose of the Working Group is to identify when and where troopers can be temporarily transferred to maintain minimum staffing levels without increasing overtime costs. The State Police Division met on a weekly basis with the Working Group throughout the year.

Upon recommendations from the Working Group, in the summer of 2021, the MSP temporarily transferred dozens of troopers from its Division of Investigative Services to various troops conducting highway patrols.18 After these transfers, the State Police Division found that overtime in the troops decreased by over 1,500 hours (8%) in 2021 compared to the same period in 2019. 

The State Police Division also found that one of the Working Group’s biggest challenges was, and is, maintaining up-to-date, detailed trooper staffing assignments for all the MSP. The State Police Division recommended that the MSP explore software-based solutions to this challenge. 

B. The MSP’s Efforts to Achieve Certification and Accreditation

The State Police Division found that the MSP continued to make progress in achieving certification from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission (MPAC). By the end of 2020, the MSP had determined that it was in full compliance with all mandated standards necessary for certification from the MPAC. In April 2021, the MSP underwent a mock certification with the MPAC in preparation for the final assessment. Throughout 2021, the MSP continued to work with the MPAC to resolve compliance gaps identified during the mock certification. The MPAC awarded the MSP formal certification on February 28, 2022. 

C. Civil Recoveries from Former State Troopers

The State Police Division also provided investigative, analytical and administrative support to the CRU in its efforts to recover unearned pay from former troopers who worked in the now-abolished Troop E. As a result of the collaborative efforts of the State Police Division and the CRU in 2021, 11 former troopers who worked in Troop E repaid more than $236,000 in unearned compensation for overtime hours they allegedly did not work.19

Additional Resources

13 Section 72 of Chapter 22C of the Massachusetts General Laws refers to the Division as “an internal special audit unit.” The Inspector General renamed the Division to avoid confusion with the previously created Internal Special Audit Unit within the Department of Transportation (see M.G.L. c. 6C, § 9).

14 In the spring of 2017, several Massachusetts media outlets began reporting about overtime irregularities in Troop E. The MSP conducted its own internal investigation and referred the matter to the United States Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office. Multiple troopers were charged and convicted, and Troop E was abolished in 2018.

15 In April 2022, the CRU reached settlements with two additional troopers for an additional $8,921.

16 After multiple troopers were charged for crimes related to overtime abuse, the MSP abolished Troop E and shifted its responsibilities to other troops in the MSP. 

17 SPAM is the union that represents all MSP troopers and sergeants.

18 The Division of Investigative Services conducts criminal investigations, including homicide investigations, in cooperation with the Commonwealth’s district attorney’s offices, and provides forensic services through its state crime laboratory system.

19 In April 2022, the CRU reached settlements with two additional troopers for an additional $8,921.

Date published: April 29, 2022

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