A state trooper who had his .45 caliber Smith & Wesson service weapon stolen while in Rhode Island has been relieved of duty without pay and could face criminal charges, the Herald has learned.
The pistol has been recovered, both Rhode Island and Massachusetts state police report, but the case remains open.
The unnamed officer has “sustained charges of misconduct” by the department and “a decision on discipline is pending,” the Massachusetts State Police said Wednesday.
“The Department is providing the findings of the internal investigation to Rhode Island State Police to assist them in determining if criminal charges are warranted relative to how the weapon was being stored at the time it was taken,” state police spokesman Dave Procopio said.
Procopio added state police brass “immediately relieved the Department member of duty and suspended him without pay while an Internal Affairs investigation was conducted.” A Herald public records request for the details of the trooper’s case, and why he was in Rhode Island, is pending. The Herald is not publishing his name until it is released by his agency.
A Rhode Island State Police lieutenant declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but added “any gun out there that shouldn’t be, is taken very seriously.” The officer added “public safety” remains the only factor.
An officer’s service weapon, law enforcement experts say, could bring a hefty price on the street.
“Everybody is paranoid when a gun goes missing. A gun is worth a lot right now, especially for a gang member,” said Dennis Galvin, president of the Massachusetts Association for Professional Law Enforcement.
“Taking the gun out-of-state is an issue,” said Galvin, a retired state police major. “The department still has to tighten up fundamental accountability.”
Galvin said Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason can’t clean up the force alone. “If supervisors are not doing their job, we will continue to have these issues,” he added.
The force has been under the gun for a series of overtime scandals and just this year state police Sgt. Bryan Erickson, 38, was taken to Exeter, N.H., by his own department to face assault allegations. He faces seven charges — including a felony count of domestic violence by means of strangulation, according to a court affidavit.
That trooper is being held in a Granite State jail accused of head-butting his girlfriend “two times” while “she had no pants on” and he appeared drunk, the affidavit states.
Galvin added “leaks are coming out all the time” and the force needs to get tougher with rogue troopers.