BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday named a new head of the embattled Massachusetts State Police as the agency works to regain the public trust.
Lt. Col. Christopher Mason will replace Col. Kerry Gilpin, who announced last week she is retiring as state police superintendent, Baker said.
Mason, a 26-year veteran of the department, will lead the 2,200-member force at a time when it has been rocked by corruption, mismanagement and misconduct scandals, including years of overtime abuse.
Mason said his priorities include relying less on what he described as “paramilitary” policing tactics and more on emphasizing empathy to deescalate encounters with vulnerable populations and those experiencing mental health problems. He said he also wanted to make the state police ranks more diverse.
“It’s important that we reflect the communities we are policing,” he said.
In response to the overtime scandal, Mason said he would institute mandatory ethics training focusing on time and attendance issues. Forty-six troopers have been implicated, including 10 who face criminal charges. The trooper unit that policed the busy Massachusetts Turnpike and Boston’s Logan Airport has also been disbanded.
Mason said those investigations are continuing.
“Wherever the evidence takes us is where we will go,” he said.
Where those investigations find wrongdoing, he added, the cases of implicated troopers who have been fired or who have retired will be referred to the state retirement board for possible pension forfeiture.
Mason also said he’s hoping to move forward on the use of body cameras and installing tracking systems in state police cruisers, although he said those are subject in part to negotiations with state police unions.
Mason said most officers are proud of the work they do each day.
“They have consistently told me that they want to be the ones to restore the prestige and the stature of the Massachusetts State Police,” he said.
Baker said Mason has “the experience and vision to lead the department forward with reforms and innovation.”
Gilpin also endorsed Baker’s decision to tap Mason as her replacement.
“I have full confidence that he will continue the progress we made over the last two years,” Gilpin said in a written statement.
Mason steps into his new role on Friday.