MASSACHUSETTS ENVIRONMENTAL COPS NEED BACKING AND MORE BEEF
State Withholds Report Decrying Lack of Commitment, Leadership and Focus
Washington, DC - State officials are blocking the public release of a report that urges a major upgrade in resource enforcement by the Massachusetts Environmental Police, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The report recommends reversing low staff levels, pay grades and morale through new leadership and a refocused commitment to enforcing anti-pollution, wildlife protection and marine safety laws.
Although completed in October 2004, Ellen Roy Herzfelder, the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs Secretary, is still holding the report under wraps. Conducted by the Management Assistance Team of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the report entitled "Comprehensive Review of the Office of Law Enforcement of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts" makes 57 recommendations for reforming the Massachusetts Environmental Police. While its surveys and interviews indicate overwhelming support by hunters, fisherman and other "stakeholders" for the MEP mission, the report found the organization is -
· Grossly Understaffed. Only 105 of its 130 full-time sworn police positions are currently filled. MEP has fewer officers than it had a decade ago;
· Badly Underpaid. The pay scale for the MEP Chief is less than half that of a State Police colonel. The low pay is making it difficult to recruit and retain good officers;
· Poorly Led. MEP does not have a permanent leader and state officials are vacillating about the role and priority accorded the agency.
"The message of this report is simple-it is past time to start seriously enforcing the laws that protect our resources," stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency biologist and attorney. "The Massachusetts Environmental Police deserve far more support than they have been getting from the Romney Administration."
MEP is the lead law enforcement unit responsible for everything from toxic dumping to boat theft. It also has the primary role in policing hunter, marine and all-terrain vehicle safety, as well as an array of wildlife fishing and coastal management protections.
According to an agency email, EOEA Secretary Herzfelder will not release the report until she is ready "to review these final recommendations and determine what, if any," action to take.
Link to the following:
The "Comprehensive Review of the Office of Law Enforcement of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts" conducted by the Management Assistance Team of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (Final Report, October 2004)
The emails announcing the decision to keep the report under wraps
PEER's 2001 Survey of Massachusetts Environmental Police officers