25 Investigates sparks scrutiny of special police officers

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — A 25 Investigates report is now prompting some state leaders to take a closer look at special police officers.

Earlier this week, Boston 25 News's Blair Miller first reported on an "Assistant to the Police Chief" working as a special police officer in Framingham. He was given a badge, a police gun, and a fully equipped unmarked police vehicle, which he has used to pull over drivers and issue citations.

>>READ THE FULL STORY: Assistant to police chief pulled over drivers

Although a lawyer for the Town of Framingham said their special police officer has some law enforcement background, state law exempts special officers from the same academy training required of full-time cops.

25 Investigates found police chiefs have broad discretion when it comes to handing out police powers – including to special officers, who largely go untracked by the state.

But members of law enforcement tell 25 Investigates they are moving away from giving police powers to those who aren’t certified to work as full-time officers.

For years, the Worcester County Sheriff's Office gave out "Deputy Sheriff" badges to members of the organization's charity group – without any police training required.

But when Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis took over six years ago, the practice raised red flags, according to Superintendent David Tuttle.

“One of the things that concerned us a lot was they actually gave out or sold star badges that said ‘Deputy Sheriff Worcester County’ on it,” said Tuttle. “And these folks aren't law enforcement.”

The Sheriff’s Office has since sought to seize those badges and refocus the group on its charity mission.

“They have no law enforcement background,” said Tuttle. “They have no law enforcement authority.  They can't stop you.  They can't question you.  They can't arrest you.  And for us, it's very important that we have that clear distinction.”

State Rep. Peter Durant (R-Spencer) told 25 Investigates it must be clear who should – and shouldn't – have police powers.

“They need to have the training that brings them all to a level of standards that are acceptable,” said Durant. “We need to make sure that anyone who carries a gun, who carries a badge, has some core competencies so that the public can feel confident that they have their best interests at heart.”

Right now, each city and town sets its own rules for special police officers, but Durant said he would like to see all officers working with the public in the community have the same training and standards.