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Advocates call for more police oversight after WBUR investigation

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Dashcam video from Washington State Patrol shows Adam Paicos, an officer with the Erving, Mass. police, being arrested for driving under the influence near Seattle in 2018. (Courtesy Washington State Patrol)
Dashcam video from Washington State Patrol shows Adam Paicos, an officer with the Erving, Mass. police, being arrested for driving under the influence near Seattle in 2018. (Courtesy Washington State Patrol)

Criminal justice advocates are pushing the state to do more to oversee police after a WBUR investigation discovered some officers accused of wrongdoing simply moved to new departments.

WBUR found over a dozen current officers have previously been fired or forced to resign over violations like sexual assault, domestic violence, and drunk driving.

"It’s extremely concerning," said State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). "Because one of the main goals of the police reform of 2020 was to make sure that exactly these kinds of transfers wouldn’t happen."

Eldridge, who co-chairs the judiciary committee, helped pass the 2020 legislation that created a new state agency to license and oversee police.

The Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission is charged with tracking misconduct and barring problem officers across the state.

The commission promised to publish an online database of police who have been disciplined last spring. But that deadline came and went.

"I’ve had an eternal frustration with how slow state agencies — whether overseeing public safety or corrections — move at an extremely glacial pace," Eldridge said.

The POST commission said plans to publish a list of the first batch of officers who have been licensed and are in good standing as early as this week. But the commission isn’t releasing the names of officers who were denied certification.

The commission also won’t say when it plans to publish the information about officers accused of misconduct.

In the meantime, WBUR found that one officer who was accused of groping and harassing a student while working for UMass Dartmouth campus police is now working for the police department in Blackstone, which assigned him to work with students and investigate sexual assaults.

Blackstone said it was unaware of the allegations at UMass Dartmouth until after it was contacted by WBUR. It says it removed David Laudon from his assignment as a school resource officer and launched an investigation.

Another officer, Adam Paicos, went to work for the Erving police in western Massachusetts after he was fired from the State Police for a series of incidents involving alcohol, including drunk driving. After joining the police in Erving, he was caught driving under the influence again, but remained with the department and has since been promoted to sergeant. The town declined to comment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts supported creating POST, the new state licensing commission, but says more needs to be done.

"It would be wrong to say that POST can be expected to fix everything," said Matthew Segal, legal director for the ACLU of Massachusetts.

Segal said the state needs to make it easier to sue police officers and departments for wrongdoing. And he said police departments need to do more to weed out bad officers themselves.

"Massachusetts historically is a place where there hasn’t been much police accountability," he said. "Where there has just been a belief that we do everything right, and we don’t need structures in place to hold police officers accountable for wrongdoing."

Segal said the lack of accountability has enabled officers with a history of misconduct to find new jobs elsewhere in the state.

This segment aired on November 28, 2022.

Related:

Walter Wuthmann Twitter General Assignment Reporter
Walter Wuthmann is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.

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