The next head of the Massachusetts State Police could come from outside the department, Gov. Maura Healey said, confirming that her search won't be limited to the agency's ranks.
Doing so would be unprecedented — it's the first time a governor may choose from outside the ranks of the department, after a recent change to Massachusetts state law allows the governor to go outside the state police when hiring its leader.
"We are looking for the best possible candidate and will not be limiting our search to within the ranks," Healey told NBC10 Boston in a statement Tuesday.
She is working on selecting a new leader for the state police, with Col. Christopher Mason retiring this Friday, after more than three years leading the force.
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Mason was appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Baker in November 2019 after serving in a number of leadership roles within the Massachusetts State Police, culminating in lieutenant colonel and deputy superintendent.
Before making a final choice, Healey plans to name an interim state police colonel while she and her team search for someone with "integrity and managerial competence" to take the role on a permanent basis, she added Wednesday.
Asked by WBUR Radio Boston host Tiziana Dearing if Healey would pick someone from outside of the organization for its leader, "given the sort of scandal-laden history of the state police, especially after the last decade," the governor said she would look both inside and outside.
"My job, my responsibility is to get the best colonel in place. And that person may well come from outside of the state police, they may come from within the state police," Healey said.
The department has had leadership turnover for years and as of fall 2022 was still facing the aftermath of an overtime scandal during which nearly 50 active or retired troopers of the since-dissolved Troop E were implicated in a fraud scheme in which they collected pay for shifts they did not work or did not finish roughly between 2015 and 2017.
"I am very mindful of the history of the state police, some of the context of all of this — I'm just focused on getting the right person for that job," Healey said on Wednesday.
The interim colonel will join the ranks of leaders the governor has tapped for short-term positions. She relied on a Cabinet made mostly of interim secretaries in her first few weeks on the job — and there is still a temporary health and human services secretary in charge of the largest executive department until March 1. Additionally, Healey has kept former Gov. Charlie Baker's pick for an acting MBTA General Manager while she searches for someone to lead the T amidst safety issues and service cuts on the public transit system.
Healey, who is familiar with the state police after working with the agency during her eight years as attorney general, did not mention a timetable for hiring a permanent new leader of the State Police.
State law calls for the governor to appoint a colonel "upon the recommendation of the secretary of public safety and security." The law requires that the colonel "have not less than 10 years of full-time experience as a sworn law enforcement officer and not less than 5 years of full-time experience in a senior administrative or supervisory position in a police force or a military body with law enforcement responsibilities."
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Healey said she was looking for someone with "integrity and managerial competence" to take the helm.
"It's a big organization and it's really important that always, there's integrity. The public trust is so so imperative," Healey said.