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Baker To Name Corrections Chief To Be State's Public Safety Secretary02:51
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Gov. Charlie Baker is expected to appoint a new secretary of public safety after he announced on Tuesday that current officeholder Dan Bennett would be stepping down.

Bennett will be replaced by Thomas Turco, who is currently the commissioner of the Department of Correction. The public safety secretary oversees 13 agencies, including the Department of Correction, National Guard and the state police.

Thomas Turco
Thomas Turco

Turco came up though the ranks of the state probation department and for 12 years  served as the chief probation officer of the Worcester Superior Court. That background will come in handy when he's named secretary, according to state Sen. Michael Moore (D-Worcester).

"Especially where we have a lot of focus on re-entry and criminal justice reform. You know, I think this could be a good appointment for the governor, where probation deals with a lot of these types of programs," said Moore, who adds Turco is very respected by everyone in Worcester County, and has "a great reputation for his managerial duties."

Nearly four years ago, Baker appointed Turco undersecretary of criminal justice, and two years later, the governor turned to him again, naming him corrections commissioner.

Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins says he thinks the world of Turco.

"He's a very even-tempered, even-keeled guy who understands this industry — he understands just how difficult this work of public safety can be," said Tompkins.

"...he brings a professionalism to the job that really is meaningful and he's collaborative in nature and that's very important in public safety — that you can work with your partners in law enforcement."

While Turco's background is in probation and corrections, the item on the top of his to do list will be implementing reforms at the state police office.

The agency has been the subject of negative headlines for some time. Five former troopers have pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from an overtime abuse scandal, and others have been implicated.

Tompkins says Turco knows the players and the environment, and understands the culture.

"Instead of the governor bringing in someone from outside of that culture to address these issues, he brought a practitioner in who has grown up in that culture, and understands how to move the pieces around on the board to get some real significant positive change in place," Tompkins said.

Dan Bennett has served as Baker's public safety secretary since he came into office in 2015. During his re-election campaign, Democratic challenger Jay Gonzalez urged Baker to fire Bennett, due to the state police scandal, but the governor stood by his cabinet secretary through the election.

In a statement, Baker praised Bennett, saying he has shown steadfast leadership working across state and local government on many critical issues, including working with the state police to implement reforms.

This segment aired on December 5, 2018.

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Steve Brown Twitter Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's State House reporter.

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