State Police chief retiring
Gilpin announces departure in a letter to troopers
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
After exactly two years leading the 2,100-member Massachusetts State Police force during a time of scandal and turmoil, Col. Kerry Gilpin will retire as superintendent at the end of next week, she announced to fellow troopers Wednesday.
Gilpin was tapped by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2017 to lead the State Police amid a controversy over the department’s handling of an arrest report for the daughter of a central Massachusetts judge and the abrupt retirements of Col. Richard McKeon and his top deputy. She later oversaw the implementation of significant reforms after an overtime fraud scandal roiled the ranks. In a letter announcing her retirement effective Nov. 15 — the two-year anniversary of her swearing-in — Gilpin said leading the department “has been the greatest honor of my professional life.”
“The last two years have presented tremendous challenges for the Department. However, I believe that with great adversity comes great opportunity. We have accomplished so much during this difficult time, and I am confident that you will continue to build upon this foundation,” Gilpin wrote to State Police employees Wednesday. She added, “I urge you to remain focused on your continued efforts to earn and maintain the public’s trust. There is work left to be done, but I am confident it will be accomplished by the many outstanding men and women who demonstrate a relentless commitment to our organization’s mission.”
Along with Baker, Gilpin oversaw the implementation of automatic vehicle locator devices in all marked State Police vehicles to, as the governor said, “ensure that supervisory personnel will have real-time information concerning the location and movement of every trooper on the job,” and the elimination of Troop E, the Turnpike-focused unit that was the subject of a probe into overtime fraud amid revelations that more than 20 troopers apparently put in for overtime shifts they did not work.
“A number of troopers violated the public’s trust in the Department by failing to live up to the high standard of conduct that Colonel Gilpin set to fulfill the Department’s mission — protecting and serving all the people of Massachusetts,” Baker said in a statement. “I am thankful that Colonel Gilpin has advanced several important reforms such as eliminating Troop E and referring 46 troopers for criminal prosecution and our Administration will continue to advance these and other essential initiatives to ensure the Massachusetts State Police reflect the values of the communities they serve: honor and integrity.”
During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Baker said the work at the State Police is not done. He said he “would expect that at some point in the not-too-distant future we’ll probably file a package of reforms with respect to the State Police” with the Legislature.
The governor wished Gilpin well and said he understood that it would be difficult for “anybody pursuing an agenda like that inside an organization like that.” But when asked if he had lost confidence in Gilpin, Baker did not give a direct answer.
“I got the fact that when she took the job she was walking into a very difficult situation and I think the decisions she made and followed through on with respect to both eliminating Troop E — which was her idea, OK? — and the pursuit of the information that was required to actually follow up on potential prosecution was a really important step forward for the State Police and one that I believe took a lot of courage,” he said.
In the letter announcing her retirement, Gilpin said she is “extremely proud” of the progress she made at the State Police and the work of the department’s troopers.
“We have taken concrete steps to enhance the Department”s responsiveness, transparency and accountability to the public we serve. Our State Police Detective Units are clearing cases at a rate well above the national average,” she wrote. “We continue to play a leading role in removing fentanyl and heroin — the substances driving the opioid epidemic — from our streets. Relationships with our local, state and federal partners are stronger than ever.”
During Gilpin’s tenure, the State Police announced that they had made an arrest in the October 1986 homicide of 15-year-old Tracy Gilpin, the colonel’s sister.
State law stipulates that the colonel of the State Police “shall be appointed by the governor, upon the recommendation of the secretary of public safety, and shall be a person who has been employed by the department in a rank above the rank of lieutenant immediately prior to such appointment and shall serve for a term coterminous with that of the governor.”
Baker said Wednesday afternoon that he will have more to say about a replacement “in a few days” and gave a bit of a job description for the next State Police colonel.
“There’s a ton of reform work that still remains to be done and I think it’s got to be somebody who gets that there’s a lot of work that still remains to deal with a number of issues, administrative and otherwise that are associated with the State Police,” he said. He added, “There’s a lot of work that remains to be done there to restore the reputation of that organization.”Baker has previously floated the idea that a governor should be able to consider candidates from outside the State Police ranks for the job of colonel/superintendent. In 2018, he told the Boston Globe’s editorial board that changing state law to allow, for example, the colonel of another state’s equivalent police agency to be tapped as head of the Mass. State Police “is certainly worth talking about.”
Asked about that idea again Wednesday, Baker said “you can expect to see that one in” his forthcoming package of State Police reform proposals.