State Police shield is tarnished

The Massachusetts State Police, long viewed as a model professional law enforcement agency with funny-looking uniforms, is going through one of the toughest times in its 153-year history and there are questions as to what the agency will look like when it comes out the other side. If it does.

The latest imbroglio involves a 19-year veteran dispatcher who was placed on leave after she allegedly posted sensitive evidence, along with her opinions, on a Facebook thread claiming a 20-year-old Brockton man who was thrown from his vehicle in a crash was responsible for his own death even though another man was charged in the accident.

The dispatcher, Carla Grant, entered into a social media discussion on a Brockton-centered page involving the case against Kyle Thistle, who has been charged with manslaughter in the death of Cory Wasilewski. Grant, whose account has since been deleted but which was captured by The Enterprise, wrote Thistle was “NOT responsible for the crash – which was caused by the decedent – per the dash cam evidence.” She also posted the dash camera video, which had not been made public.

“The decedents [sic] family is engaging in a defamation campaign that will hopefully see them losing everything they own,” she wrote in another post.

While Grant has been placed on leave, The Enterprise is reporting it’s not the first time she has posted opinions and internal information regarding other cases. She was not disciplined in those instances.

The incident is the latest headache for new Superintendent Kerry Gilpin, who became the leader of the State Police after her predecessor, Richard McKeon and his deputy were forced to resign in the wake of reports that an arrest record involving a judge’s daughter was altered.

Earlier this week, Gilpin announced 21 troopers were under investigation for an overtime scam in which the officers allegedly put in for shifts they did not work. She referred the case to Attorney General Maura Healey for investigation.

But if that was it for Gilpin, a 23-year veteran of the agency who is also going through some personal turmoil after the recent arrest of a man in North Carolina for the unsolved murder of her sister in 1981, that would be enough to keep her busy for months. But those are just two current examples. She’s also dealing with the fallout from the hiring of a woman as a dispatcher who later became a K-9 officer even though she once got immunity for testifying against her drug-dealing boyfriend and admitting her own involvement years before joining the agency. No one has yet explained why that was not part of her background check.

Another trooper was placed on leave last week after he allegedly reported for duty drunk and drove out of the barracks in his cruiser. And earlier this month, a trooper who was involved in a shooting on the Southeast Expressway was suspended without pay after officials learned he made racist posts on a police website called Masscops.

Gov. Charlie Baker has stopped short of promising an overhaul of the agency but the drumbeat is getting louder. Senate President Harriette Chandler, while praising Baker’s approach so far, nonetheless called the overtime scam a “scandal,” a term Baker has been reluctant to say, and indicated the Legislature may be the ones to right the ship. But as the election nears, opponents will make sure Baker owns the scandal, whether he utters the phrase or not.

In the meantime, the burden is on Gilpin to restore the agency’s name and trust. State Police have always been the ones locals turn to when investigating their own. Aside from Boston, Worcester, and Springfield, the agency is responsible for homicide investigations around the state. Gilpin understands how important image and perception are to that duty.

“For us to fulfill our mission as a police agency, we must have the public’s trust,” Gilpin said when she announced the overtime investigation.

Right now, that is a monumental task. As the Boston Herald’s Howie Carr wrote, ”Col. Gilpin also told the press that, ‘Integrity, honesty and accountability are core values of the Massachusetts State Police.’ Surely she meant to say, ‘were.’”

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

The House passes a new tax on short-term rentals. (State House News)

At a press conference outside the Senate president’s office, Karen Spilka describes herself as the Senate president-elect, indicates she followed the Stan Rosenberg playbook in building support, and learns current Senate president Harriette Chandler isn’t quite ready to step down. (CommonWealth) A Herald editorial says the Senate needs stability at the top and hopes Spilka  will provide that.

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas goes after Rep. Diana DiZoglio of Methuen for failing to testify at a hearing on a bill dealing with sexual harassment on Beacon Hill but the next day ambushing House Speaker Robert DeLeo on the House floor with her own personal story of harassment.

Shirley Leung says a lot of things seem to be getting broken under the state’s fix-it governor. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

In the wake of a series of financial setbacks, the Holyoke City Council votes to ask state Auditor Suzanne Bump to scrub the city’s finances. (MassLive)

Dismissal of corruption charges against two aides is good news for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. (Boston Globe) Scot Lehigh calls the federal case against them a “waste of tax dollars” that upended the lives of two decent people. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Congress passed a $1.3 trillion budget early Friday to avert a third shutdown and keep the government funded through the end of the fiscal year in September but the spending bill ignores much of the Trump administration agenda to reshape priorities. (New York Times)

The Globe editorial page rolls out an impressive, interactive online editorial laying out what it says are seven sensible steps states could take to reduce gun deaths. The gun violence issue has stirred a national movement of young people that has already led to gun-law changes in four states. (Boston Globe)

Just days after dismissing stories of his discontent with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster as “fake news,” President Trump replaced the Army general with hard-line conservative John Bolton. (National Review)

The Herald’s Jessica Heslam has a message for Donald Trump and Joe Biden: “Grow up.”

Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who is suing the National Enquirer to be able to tell her story about an alleged affair with Trump, said the then-businessman and reality TV star offered to pay her after they had sex. (CNN) Meanwhile, Stormy Daniels, who is slated to tell all in a “60 Minutes” interview this Sunday, is beating Trump at the media game he plays so well, writes the Globe’s Matt Viser.

Trump’s trade tariffs on China may have sent stocks down, but they could deliver some good, says Evan Horowitz. (Boston Globe)

Vice President Mike Pence delivers a campaign-type speech in Manchester, New Hampshire.

ELECTIONS

A new WBUR poll indicates Gov. Charlie Baker is still cruising in his reelection bid, but attitudes about his job performance weren’t so hot. Asked how they would rate Baker’s job performance, more than half of those polled gave him a grade of fair or poor on addressing the high cost of housing, improving the state’s roads and bridges, reducing the cost of health care, improving the MBTA, and addressing the opioid crisis.

Secretary of State William Galvin throws his support behind automatic voter registration. (MassLive)

EDUCATION

Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billercia takes a number of steps to protect students, including paying a firm to monitor social media for potential threats. (WBUR)

A Globe editorial decries an expected move by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to repeal an Obama administration policy aimed at combating disproportionate punishment of minority students compared with to white classmates for similar offenses.

The Haverhill School Committee voted 5-2 to appoint Margaret Marotta as superintendent. Marotta currently serves as the assistant superintendent in the Salem school district. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Lawrence Teachers Union approves a contract  that offers workers with up to 10 years of experience step increases plus a flat $1,000 pay hike for each of the next three years. (Eagle-Tribune)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A batch of heroin mixed with deadly fentanyl was responsible for four overdose deaths in Lowell on Wednesday night. (Boston Herald)

TRANSPORTATION

Central Massachusetts planners raise concerns that more cuts at the Worcester Regional Transit Authority will lead to fewer riders and more cars on the road. The WRTA says it needs more state funding to avoid the cuts. (Telegram & Gazette)

A second Steamship Authority ferry between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard was taken out of service for mechanical problems, leaving the agency with few options after three of its other ships had already been removed for planned off-season maintenance and repairs. (Cape Cod Times)

Tips from the world’s greatest hitchhiker. (New York Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Pilgrim nuclear power plant remains offline while officials await a new start-up transformer and it is unclear when the facility, which was shut down during the recent storms, will be back on-line as its annual assessment approaches. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Steve Wynn sold all his shares in the company that bears his name, another step in the company’s bid to divorce itself from its founder. The move comes as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is trying to decide whether Wynn’s alleged sexual misconduct — and the company’s handling of it — warrant the withdrawal of the firm’s casino license. (CNBC)

The Braintree Planning Board endorsed two zoning changes that would bar recreational marijuana sales, cultivation, and manufacturing in the town. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Brewster elementary school teacher has been charged with rape of a child and indecent assault for allegedly sexualy abusing at least two 6-year-old students and possibly more by taking them into a dark room during class. (Cape Cod Times)

A Duxbury man arrested last year for stockpiling an arsenal of weapons at his parents’ home and claiming to be a Homeland Security agent has been arrested in Connecticut for taking clandestine pictures of ambulance patients while he was volunteering. (Patriot Ledger)

A Waltham husband and wife are indicted in connection with a Syrian bomb-making scheme. (WBUR)