Patrol Officers Are Out Of Control.
A five-month undercover investigation into the state’s environmental police department exposed officers on the clock, while at home, on the taxpayers’ dime.
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.
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?
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?