Police Chiefs, Do You Even Care? Your Patrol Officers Are Out Of Control

Patrol Officers Are Out Of Control.

BOSTON —A five-month undercover investigation into the state’s environmental police department exposed officers on the clock, while at home, on the taxpayers’ dime.

Watch the report

On one day, 5 Investigates’ tracked state environmental police Officer Pat Robert as he loaded up a handful of fishing poles and was finally ready to respond for duty after staying at home, on the clock, for the first six hours of his shift.

Video: 5 Investigates GPS devices no longer track environmental police trucks

It’s a troubling pattern we discovered – Massachusetts Environmental Police officers at home during their shifts, their take-home state trucks parked outside.

“It’s a complete waste of taxpayer money,” said a source familiar with how the department works. “Right now it’s a free-for-all. Everybody does whatever they want to do.”

“There’s no accountability. There’s no supervision of any kind whatsoever,” the source added.

Why Are These Officers Even Being Paid?

Patrol Officers Are Out Of Control.The mission of the Massachusetts Environmental Police is to protect the environment and natural resources. They enforce fishing, boating and hunting laws and relocate wayward animals.

But we observed officer Robert at home for hours at a time on multiple days while on duty.

Our cameras also caught him driving well over the speed limit when there was no emergency at all. His destination? Boston Harbor, where he just sat in his truck, then he took a stroll around the North End and eventually landed at headquarters 2 1/2 into his shift.

We also found other officers, including Eamonn Mullaly and Brian St. Pierre, at home on several days during their shifts for an hour or more instead of out on patrol.

“That’s a complete absence of any kind of management oversight,” said Tom Nolan, a criminology professor at Merrimack College and former Boston police lieutenant.

“These are well-compensated people who are in a position of a lot of responsibility and they bear the public trust ultimately,” Nolan said. “And this is violative of the public trust.”

Our investigation also found this perk: Environmental police get paid time and a half by another state agency, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, to work details patrolling state pools and parks. And they are even allowed to split their regular shifts to accommodate the lucrative details in the middle of their work days.

Our cameras captured officer Ian Haskins enjoying an ice cream poolside while working a split-shift, time-and-a-half detail.

Haskins is just one of the many officers taking advantage of that detail perk, some guarding nearly empty pools or just sitting in their trucks outside the pool area.

Legitimate Overtime Is One Thing, Larceny By False Timecards Is Another.

Environmental police officers have been paid almost $1.4 million in overtime and state pool and park details during the past two fiscal years, records show.

“These services are needed, but these services need to be performed during their normal patrol time,” said the source. “There’s not enough to do as it is during their normal patrol time.”

During one of environmental police Sgt. Chris Folan’s patrols, he towed a boat from Lakeville to Hingham and spent the next few hours just hanging around.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s former campaign driver, James McGinn, is the director of the Environmental Police. He did his best to avoid an interview with 5 Investigates, but we finally caught up with him at the end of a recent work day.

We asked him if it is acceptable for one of his officers to be at home for six hours during one shift.

“We’d like to see that and we’ll take action,” McGinn said.

But overall McGinn said he is OK with his officer’s working from home when they’re writing reports or washing their cruisers.

Asked how many hours at home during shift would be acceptable, McGinn said: “It all depends. It all depends what type of report they’re doing. We’re a very unconventional police force.”

Unconventional Police Force?  Yeah I’ll Drink To That, Can I Log My Time In The Bar As Overtime?

5  Investigates also learned that under McGinn’s leadership the department last year removed GPS tracking devices from all environmental police patrol vehicles after being asked to do so by the police officers’ union.

Beginning in 2013, each police truck was equipped with a GPS tracking device called GeoTab, which allowed supervisors to see where their officers’ trucks were at any given time.

“I’m not sure why they would install at taxpayer expense GPS devices to these take-home vehicles and then deactivate them,” Nolan said. “I mean that’s a solid management tool that supervisory personnel can look at and monitor the comings and goings of these officers.

“I would question what the reason was, what the justification was for deactivating those devices,” Nolan added.

We asked McGinn why the GPS tracking system was scrapped.

“It was taken out for a cost-saving measure,” McGinn said. “We can’t use those GPS… we couldn’t just go to a computer and track our officers.”

Records obtained by 5 Investigates show the police officer’s union, Coalition of Public Safety, filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor Relations in 2013 — just days after management first installed the GPS devices.

A year later, the two sides signed an agreement which allowed the department to keep the monitoring devices in the trucks for “fleet management,” “dispatching” and “patrol analysis,” but prohibited “trolling” or going on a “fishing expedition” in the GPS database, looking for violations.

A department spokesman said the union requested the removal of the GPS system in 2015 — after McGinn had been appointed director — and that request was approved.

“It was more of a hands-off approach where there was less accountability, less supervision,” said the source familiar with how the department works. “And you know what they say, when the cat’s away the mice will play.”

The Environmental Police Department has a $10 million budget, so the GPS system was not likely to break the bank. The costs for all the devices was a little more than $11,000 and there was a $2,700 monthly charge for software and monitoring.

This Is Sick, Sick, Sick.  The Union Requests Removal Of The System So The Chief Says, OK, Fine?

I really find this difficult to believe.  Especially because I used to sell, implement and maintain systems made by the GeoTab company, exactly the equipment these folks are talking about.

I know it works and I know what savings can be attained if management just lives up to their responsibilities.

It’s one thing for a state agency to decide, “Oh no, GPS tracking is not for us right now”.  Shortsighted, perhaps, but totally understandable.  Management gets paid to make choices.

But Cheap, Highly Functional Devices Were Already Installed … And They Threw Away Taxpayer’s Dollars TWICE?

You can read more about another troubled police department here: GPS Tracking Watches the Watchers

Here The Officers Already Agreed To Be Monitored

The Agreement signed by management and the union is very clear.  The union agrees that it is management’s right to conduct “fleet management,” “dispatching” and “patrol analysis,” using the GPS system, so I can’t understand the chief’s decision at all.  He can’t complain that the rank and file were “revolting” so he took the system out to maintain workplace relationships.

The rank and file had already agreed to be monitored and the police vehicles were already equipped.  Dumbfounding.

Director McGinn, may I ask if you are familiar with the meaning of the word “malfeasance”?  The definition I use is:

the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used especially of an act in violation of a public trust).

What more can I say about the fact that Patrol Officers Are Out Of Control?

New Jersey DOT is Smart — How About Your DOT?

New Jersey DOT is Smart.

Here are some excerpts from a recent article about the New Jersey DOT and their use of GPS tracking to fulfill their charter as a state agency paid to do a job for the taxpayer.

All to many such agencies have just become a huge money sink, providing vehicles to state employees but having no idea what the vehicles (and employees) are doing once they are out of sight.

If You Aren’t Tracking, Then WHY?

The most common excuse agencies give for NOT tracking vehicles is “Expense”.

But this is actually a totally bogus, “we don’t give a crap” excuse.

“Expense” is the primary excuse all government employees give for not doing their job … as if they had to pay for things out of their own pocket.

GPS Tracking Doesn’t Cost, It Pays

GPS tracking has been proven, time and time again to ALWAYS save more than it costs … as long as the agency who installed the GPS actually manages the vehicles with it and actually does something with the information.

The real reason so many managers are reluctant to implement GPS tracking system is, they are scared.

  • Scared they might find out things about vehicle use … as in how many vehicles or employees are really not needed.
  • Scared they might find employee abuse and actually have to take action to correct it, instead of letting the tax payer suffer in silence.
  • Scared they might actually not have an excuse to demand ever more money and do less of a job with it … the proverbial “Self Licking Ice Cream Cone.”

Send Us More Money And We’ll Keep On NOT Doing Our Job.

Fortunately, for those of you who live or pay taxes in New Jersey, the New. Jersey DOT is bucking the bad government trend.  Hat’s Off to them.  See:

New Jersey DOT using GPS to track use and abuse of state vehicles

 BY  KAREN ROUSE STAFF WRITER, The Record (I used to work for the Record, what a GREAT newspaper!)

Some scream up and down the highway at more than 100 mph. Others have done private jobs while on the government dime.

Then there are those who steal time by parking their state Department of Transportation trucks in mall lots, on side streets, even near bowling alleys, and take leisurely breaks when they’re supposed to be filling potholes, fixing signs or picking up dead deer on the highway.

“Like pigeons that go and hide, we have employees that like to go cooping,” said state Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson. They say, ‘Let’s go get a truck and hide out in the park.’ ” …

Uncommon?  Hardly.

This is so, so common it’s often hard for management to believe what is going on out there until they actually do track their employees and vehicles.  You can read more about how common “cooping”  here: GPS Tracking Watches the Watchers

… Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop announced in August that the city had installed GPS in public works vehicles to “increase accountability and cut down on fuel expenses.”

The city initially installed tracking devices on 20 public works vehicles, and plans to expand it within that department and, eventually, to the Police Department.

New Jersey DOT is Smart
Are These YOUR Workers?

There has been “a culture of entitlement and abuse by employees (my emphasis) of city vehicles and we are taking every measure to ensure an end to that abuse,” Fulop said in a news release. The abuses, he said, have included taking cars outside of the city and using them for personal trips.

In an age when employees know the boss could be checking their Facebook pages or searching what websites they visit on company computers, many workers are not alarmed — as long as it’s done right, said Sandro Polledri, a civil trial lawyer in Newark who represents workers in discrimination cases. It’s acceptable to use GPS to investigate a worker’s productivity if not done surreptitiously, or during non-work hours, he said.

Just last month, the state DOT employees were issued a “Use of State Vehicles” notice that warns that “all department vehicles are equipped with a GPS system to monitor the location of the vehicle,” and that “the GPS system also records the speed of the vehicle and registers alerts when the vehicle is driven at high speeds.”

Violating the rules of the road or tampering with the GPS system could result in disciplinary action, including being fired, the notice says.

A separate department policy gives Simpson and the DOT inspector general 24/7 access to all transportation-related properties, including 69 yards, four rest areas, two regional headquarters and maintenance complex, as well as access to all vehicles within a yard, and structures in the yards….

If Yu Are Running An Agency (or a business) You Already Have the “Right”, and, IMO, The Duty

So many people seem afraid to implement GPS because of supposed “legal issues”.  This is almost as common as the “no funds” excuse.  But as attorney Polledri points out, it’s not really rocket science.

However for many officials it does involve an unfamiliar process … that is Growing Some Balls.

What the heck do you get paid for, anyway?

Are you afraid that if you exercise your authority the employees will quit their cushy jobs?  Call their bluff.

The answer, which seems so simple, yet so hard for so many government leaders to utter is summed up right here:

“We’re the Department of Transportation. We have to set an example for everyone.”

I recommend you read the whole article … if, that is, you actually give a shit about how your tax dollar is being spent.

– See more at: New Jersey DOT using GPS to track use and abuse of state vehicles

So what do you think, the New Jersey DOT is Smart, or not?

Just How Good is Tesla’s GPS Tracking?

Just How Good is Tesla’s GPS Tracking?

I’ve written about this subject many, many times before … example here: GPS Tracking Can’t Find Flight 477 — and Why

But I Don’t Think I Have Mentioned Tesla Yet

Tesla automobiles are really a techno-nerds delight.  There seems to be no end of the features packed into their sophisticated operating system. (Tesla OS)

And since the Tesla OS relies heavily on the GPS it’ no secret that one of the many appealing features if the fact the Tesla is almost “un-stealable”, and if the car ever does get stolen, it will be continuously tracked by Tesla computers and thus easily recoverable by law enforcement.

Maybe.

In real life, though, things mat be a little different:

Two Tesla Model S PJust How Good is Tesla's GPS Tracking?90Ds have been stolen in Europe recently and despite the vehicle’s always-on GPS tracking software, the pair have disappeared without a trace.

On June 11, a Model S was stolen in Dusseldorf, Germany with the thief managing to take off with the electric sedan despite not having a key. Then on August 2, another was stolen, this time in Essen and again without a key, leading to speculation that the thieves may have hacked into the cars.

Electrek says there is a possibility the thieves could have hacked into the Tesla accounts of the owners. From there, they could have unlocked and driven the vehicles through the available smartphone application.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be much of an issue because the GPS system of the Model S makes it incredibly easy to track as it is always displaying the vehicle’s location. Strangely however, no GPS signals have been found from either, leading some to believe that the GPS systems may have been jammed or the sim card removed. (my emphasis) (read the whole article here)

Blocking GPS

There are many different ways to block GPS signals from being received.  But in this case I doubt this was done.  Blocking GPS reception to a Tesla vehicle is going to disable or degrade many features of the OS, and it’s certainly going to make the car less interesting to drive.

It’s also going to make the car less valuable if the intention is to sell it on the black market.  I mean why buy such a highly sophisticated car with many of the features missing or degraded?

The possible answer?

Don’t Block GPS Reception, Block The Tracking

The Tesla OS relies on 3G and 4G  wireless (cell phone) services in order to send the car’s GPS location back to Tesla’s central monitor and control computers.

In order to use these wireless services, the car has a SIM card (Subscriber Information Module) just like every working cell phone is equipped with.  Without a SIM card there is no two-way communication over the wireless network … USA, Europe or anywhere else in the world.

So All The Thieves Need To Do Is Remove The SIM?

It certainly seems that way.  Like any common commercial GPS tracking system, getting the cars location data back to the owner or controlling agency depends upon the cellular wireless network.

Couldn’t Tesla design the onboard computer in the car to shut the car down if it wasn’t receiving communication from “Tesla Central”?

Yes they certainly could, but the effects might be very unpredictable and annoying, even dangerous to customers.

The Entire USA, Much Less The Entire World Is NOT Covered With 2G or 3G or 4G Signals.

If you plunked down $100,000 plus bucks for a Tesla and then started driving off to your favorite hunting cabin in northern Minnesota to perhaps bag a deer before winter sets in, would you expect your Tesla to keep operating?  Even though there’s no cell signal for miles.

Well I certainly would.  So, I think, would the vast majority of Tesla owners.  Do the idea of designing the car’s own interface to make it dependent upon a cell phone signal just doesn’t seem doable.

So what do you think?

Just How Good is Tesla’s GPS Tracking?