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Massachusetts officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state in the New England region of the United States. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Maine to the east, Connecticut to the southwest and Rhode Island to the southeast, New Hampshire to the northeast, Vermont to the northwest, and New York to the west. The capital of Massachusetts is Boston, which is also the most populous city in New England. It is home to the Greater Boston metropolitan area, a region influential upon American history, academia, and industry. Originally dependent on agriculture, fishing and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, Massachusetts's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Modern Massachusetts is a global leader in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade.
In United States terminology, special police can mean:
Auxiliary police, members of volunteer, unpaid or paid, part-time civilian police, security officer units, interns;
Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT);
Security police; or
Special Law Enforcement Officers/ Special Jurisdiction Law Enforcement – used in New Jersey to supplement full-time police officers;
The term can also refer to limited police power granted in some jurisdictions to lifeguards, SPCA personnel, teachers, and other public sector employees which is incidental to their main responsibilities. Special Police Officers (or SPOs) can be employed to protect large campuses such as theme parks, hospital centers, and commerce centers.
Some states, such as Maryland, New York, and the District of Columbia, grant full State Police/peace officer authority to SPOs for use in whatever area they are employed to protect. They can make traffic stops in their jurisdiction if they have had accredited training. They are also permitted to conduct traffic control and investigations pertaining to the area protected by them, while a majority of SPOs are armed with a firearm, some states permit the age for an SPO to be 18, while still they can not carry a sidearm. Special police can make a criminal arrest and run blue strobe lights on their vehicle.
In Massachusetts, ‘special police’ usually refers to Special State Police Officers (SSPOs) whom are law enforcement officers employed by a college, university, or hospital police force. SSPOs must attend and graduate either the 16-week SSPO Academy hosted by the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) in New Braintree, MA, or any of the 20-week Recruit Officer Courses (the same academies attended by municipal LEOs across the commonwealth) approved by the Municipal Police Training Council (MPTC). Prospective SSPOs may have the training requirement waived by the Massachusetts State Police if they have completed an MPTC-approved Reserve/Intermittent Academy, have worked at least 2,000 hours as a part-time LEO, and have an associate’s degree or higher in criminal justice; SSPO candidates whom have a significant full-time LE work history and have previously completed any LE academy may also apply for a training waiver from the MSP. SSPOs typically have the same police powers as ‘regular’ police officers within the commonwealth, although they may only exercise it pursuant to their duties and usually only while on their employer’s property.
Officers and investigators of the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MADOC) and parole officers of the Massachusetts Parole Board (MPB) are also authorized to be sworn as SSPOs upon recommendation of the chairman of the Massachusetts Parole Board, given they meet SSPO training requirements. Like other SSPOs, they may only exercise their police powers while on-duty and pursuant to their specific duties. MADOC SSPOs are permitted to exercise their police powers in and around Massachusetts penal institutions, while transporting prisoners, and in order to prevent a prisoner from escaping. Both MADOC and MPB SSPOs are permitted to serve warrants issued by the governor, the MADOC commissioner or by the MPB chairman. MPB SSPOs may also execute warrants issued by Massachusetts courts. MPB SSPOs may also arrest parolees that have violated their parole conditions or have committed a crime before the parole officer, and have full police powers when assisting a ‘regular’ police officer.
Probation officers of the Massachusetts Probation Service are, unlike parole officers, not sworn as SSPOs. Instead, Massachusetts General Law specifically empowers them as ‘regular’ police officers whom may exercise such authority throughout the commonwealth, and are required to attend a Probation Service academy.
Locally, some towns and cities may use the term ‘special police officer’ to refer to reserve/part-time members of their police departments, such as in Wellesley and Lincoln, MA. If they are sworn, the state requires all special police officers to complete 372.5 hours of training, with an additional 56 hours for those carrying a firearm, the same as other part-time or reserve officers in Massachusetts.
There are also a plethora of ‘special police officers’ who work in the city of Boston; these officers either work directly for the city (Boston School Police, Boston Municipal Protective Services, Boston Public Health Commission Police, Boston Housing Authority Police, or Boston Fire Department arson investigators) or for private security and armored car companies. The city of Boston required these agencies to attend a Boston Police Department-approved academy which was a minimum of 160 training hours.
However, as of 1 July 2021, Most Boston special police officers were stripped of their police powers and the automatic right to carry a firearm on-duty, due to the passage of Massachusetts bill S.2963. The bill requires anyone exercising police powers, including Boston special police officers, to have graduated from an MPTC-approved academy or the MSP-sponsored SSPO Academy; The city of Boston is still permitted to issue special police officer licenses, but prospective officers must meet the aforementioned requirements. As of September 2021, only 6 licenses had been re-issued, all to Boston Housing Authority special police officers.
Special police officers and SSPOs whom work for a ‘public agency,’ (i.e. any state or municipal agency, school, or hospital) and are authorized to carry firearms on-duty, qualify to carry a firearm concealed, off-duty, anywhere in the United States, as per the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act. This act does not grant any additional police authority to individuals that fall under it. Individuals employed by private agencies, i.e. security companies, private schools, or private hospitals, do not qualify for LEOSA protections.