Massachusetts' public safety secretary steps down

Massachusetts' public safety secretary steps down

BOSTON — Massachusetts' public safety secretary, Daniel Bennett, is stepping down, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday afternoon.

Thomas Turco, current Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Correction, is assuming Bennett's role as public safety secretary.

Baker praised Bennett in a statement.

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“Since day one, our administration has been deeply committed to keeping every Massachusetts community as safe and secure as possible,” said Baker. “Dan has shown steadfast leadership working across state and local government on critical issues like fighting the opioid epidemic, radically transforming Bridgewater State Hospital and working with the State Police to implement several important reforms. We thank him for his public service, wish him well in the future and look forward to welcoming Commissioner Turco and his thirty years of experience to the cabinet.”

In a statement Turco said he's honored to be appointed to his new position to continue "keeping our communities and residents safe."

“I look forward to working with the Administration, Legislature and public safety officials across the state to make meaningful progress and improve public safety from the Berkshires to Cape Cod, ranging from fighting the opioid epidemic to continuing reform at the State Police," Turco said.

Carol Mici, currently Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Correction, will serve as acting commissioner at the Department of Correction.

Baker said several advancements were made under Bennett’s leadership, including partnering with Correct Care Solutions in 2017 in an effort to improve the quality of care for persons with serious mental illness at Bridgewater State Hospital. The administration closed the Intensive Treatment Unit  on the first day of the transition and in the first year, Bridgewater saw a dramatic reduction in the number of hours of patient seclusion (91%) and mechanical restraint (99%).

Baker also said Bennett was instrumental in passing reforms to empower police officers to crack down on fentanyl and carfentanil traffickers and also deployed an innovative buyer diversion treatment program to divert lower level offenders arrested for purchasing narcotics away from the criminal justice system and into treatment and recovery options.

Bennett also installed a new Chief Medical Examiner and leadership team at the agency. The office now closes approximately 90 percent of its cases in 90 days, compared with 45 percent of cases closed in that same timeframe in fiscal year 2015.

Bennett also worked with Massachusetts State Police to implement several reforms to the department amid an overtime scandal, including the elimination of Troop E, the activation of GPS technology in state police cruisers and the development of a body camera program.

Turco began his career as a probation officer at the Florida Department of Correction in 1988. He has served in multiple counties and was promoted in 2003 to Chief Probation Officer of Worcester Superior Court, where he supervised the operations of the probation department for Worcester County.

In 2015, Turco was appointed by Baker to be Undersecretary of Criminal Justice in the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. In 2016, Turco was appointed as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Correction.