Vaccine fight only latest bad headline for State Police 

IT’S NOT AS IF the Massachusetts State Police were on a particularly great run already. The department has been hit by one scandal after another, mostly centered on overtime fraud and other charges that don’t exactly cast troopers in the best public-service light. 

Now, with public and private sector employers trying to figure out the best way forward amid the unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, the union representing State Police officers is fighting an order by Gov. Charlie Baker that all state employees be vaccinated by October 17 or face possible termination.

Last week, a Suffolk Superior Court judge shot down a union filing for an injunction to block Baker’s order from going into effect. The union wants officers to have the option of submitting to regular COVID testing in place of getting vaccinated. Baker’s order, which is considered one of the strongest by any governor in the country, does not provide for that alternative. 

The argument for a vaccine mandate for public-facing employees like State Police seems particularly strong. No one has to have a close encounter with an office worker in the state Department of Revenue bureaucracy. But a car accident on the Mass. Pike, or a heavy foot that has a driver pulled over for speeding, could mean a face-to-face meet-up with a State Police officer. 

“Part of the job is protecting the public, and one thing you don’t want them to be doing is infecting the people that they’re meant to protect,” Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the Globe. “If I were employing police officers, I’d want them to be fully vaccinated,” he said. “It’s inexcusable for them not to be.”

In August, the state’s largest teachers union, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, announced that it supports a vaccine mandate for all Massachusetts school staff and eligible students. It followed months of lobbying by teachers unions for HVAC improvements and other measures to protect teachers from COVID.

The State Police union, on the other hand, is resisting the vaccine mandate but nonetheless asking that any COVID cases among officers be treated as “a line of duty injury.”  That kind of have-it-both-ways position probably doesn’t win a lot of sympathy from the public. 

The union says “dozens” of officers have filed papers to resign rather than submit to the mandate. A State Police spokesman said only one trooper has definitively indicated plans to quit over the order. A union spokesman attributed the difference to “semantics,” insisting that dozens of officers are prepared to step down. 

The department has been facing a staffing shortage, making the stakes in the vaccine standoff even higher. But Baker insists he’s not backing down, and a State Police spokesman says a class of 168 new recruits will soon graduate and the department “is prepared to continue to fulfill our mission.” 

MICHAEL JONAS

FROM COMMONWEALTH

 

MBTA derailment: A Red Line train derailed Tuesday morning moving at a slow speed into Broadway Station, and the second car in the six-car train slammed into the platform. No one was injured, but it was the latest in a string of recent mishaps at the T and the third derailment on the subway system this year. Last year there were five derailments.

— A string of derailments in 2019 prompted the T to bring in a group of prominent transportation officials to review safety at the transit authority. Their conclusion: the T wasn’t making safety a priority. In response, the T launched a major safety initiative.

— It took the rest of Tuesday to remove the disabled train. In the meantime, the T ran shuttle buses between JFK/UMass and Park and a shuttle train on one track between Ashmont and JFK/UMass so the other track could be used for gaining access to the disabled train. Regular service resumed Wednesday morning, but there were speed restrictions between South Station and Broadway. Read more.

OPINION

Big names back climate action: A group of local heavy hitters, including Robert Brown of BU, Amos Hostetter of the Barr Foundation, Anne Klibanski of Mass General Brigham, Alan Leventhal of Beacon Capital, Bud Ris of Boston Harbor Now, Kate Walsh of Boston Medical Center, and Gwill York of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, call for an all-hands-on-deck approach to climate change. Read more.

Fusion caution: Freelance writer Frederick Hewett says don’t get carried away with fusion energy enthusiasm until a project actually generates more energy than it uses. Read more.

Voter registration: Jonathan Cohn of Progressive Mass. and Kristina Mensik of The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women & Girls push for same-day voter registration as a way to reinvigorate democracy. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Climate activists were arrested after they chained themselves to a trailer bearing a pink boat named “Climate Emergency” in front of Gov. Charlie Baker’s driveway in Swampscott. (Boston Herald

A push for Indigenous People’s Day to replace Columbus Day gets backing from some Italians. (State House News Service)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Mass General Brigham becomes the latest high-profile provider network to announce that it will not offer Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm to patients at its hospitals, which include Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. (Boston Globe

Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins’s proposal to use space in the jail complex he oversees near Mass. and Cass as a treatment center for people with addiction problems, which has faced criticism from public health experts and advocates, has now drawn the wrath of US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who denounced the “criminalization” of addiction through involuntary commitment to the facility. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The feared national eviction “tsunami” following the end of a federal moratorium has not occurred, but experts are conflicted about why. (Washington Post

ELECTIONS

Advocates unveiled a proposal for new state legislative district lines that would increase minority voting clout while also forcing a few incumbent lawmakers to run against each other in newly-drawn districts. (Boston Globe)

Voters in Northampton narrowed the field to replace Mayor David Narkiewicz to two, voting for City Councilor Louise Sciarra and transportation consultant Marc Warner to move into the final. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo and his father, Felix D. Arroyo, a former councilor who is now Suffolk County register of probate, endorsed Michelle Wu for mayor. (Boston Herald)  

EDUCATION

Nearly 400 families have enrolled in an all-remote K-12 school being operated within the Brockton Public Schools. (The Enterprise

Boston has spent the bulk of its federal education relief money so far on air conditioning and other school facilities issues, leading some to criticize the absence of investments focused on academics. (Boston Globe

A Chicago foundation is giving $500 million to 20 colleges and universities, including Tufts and Bates, to enroll more low-income and undocumented students. (GBH)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Supreme Judicial Court rejected a claim that the state’s 13 sheriffs violated the rights of prisoners in their custody during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Salem News

There aren’t enough public defenders to go around in New England as low pay and long hours prompt an exodus from the profession. (USA Today)

Former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia has been ordered to report on December 3 to begin serving his six-year federal prison sentence on various corruption charges. (Herald News) He also has to repay $300,000 to investors in an app he promoted. (Associated Press)