Mass. Police Officers May Not Receive Required Training From State, Auditor's Report Says

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A new report from the state auditor suggests that Massachusetts is not properly training its municipal police officers.

The state requires police officers to have 40 hours of training a year, and municipalities end up paying some $22 million a year for that training, but there's little accountability to make sure it’s actually being done, according to the report issued by state auditor Suzanne Bump.

Her report is largely based on surveys of police chiefs across the state. They told her office that more training is needed — especially in mental health and de-escalation. The current training is often either difficult to schedule or is done in decrepit Municipal Police Training Center facilities, according to the chiefs. They also said there is little oversight about the type of training offered and who's getting it.

"There are some police chiefs who responded to the survey by indicating that, in fact, their officers in the past year had received no hours of training,” Bump said.

Although more funding for police training was supposed to come from a $2 fee on rental cars that went into effect this year, Bump said that fee has not generated as much as expected. State officials expected up to $10 million from the fee, but it appears that’s closer to $6 million.

“We run the risk of failing to support our police officers by providing the 21st century policing skills that are required of them during this period of heightened concern about the adequacy of police response to a variety issues — especially involving mental health and de-escalation,” she said.

The report recommends that the state increase annual funding for training beyond the $5 million it currently spends, and implement a system to improve and track municipal police training.

“What we know is that Massachusetts invests less than virtually every other state in training,” Bump said. "We’ve recommended that Massachusetts shed its status of being only one of four states in the nation that doesn’t have a police officer service training system, which is really the creation of a set of standards and a database to track the training of police officers.”

This segment aired on November 18, 2019.


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Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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