A campus police officer at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth resigned in the midst of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against him in 2010. That same officer, David Laudon, was then re-hired as a school resource officer at the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District in the nearby town of Blackstone, Massachusetts. In his capacity there, Laudon was tasked with investigating reported sexual assaults and working with students in the public school system who have been sexually victimized, WBUR reported over the weekend.
According to the campus police report at the time, Laudon had given a 20-year-old college student a ride back to her residential hall in his cruiser. The student said he gave her a hug and groped her breast, and then proceeded to constantly harass her with frequent unwanted texts and calls. Laudon resigned during the investigation into his behavior.
Blackstone town administrator Dori Vecchio told WBUR she didn’t know about allegations against Laudon while he was at UMass Dartmouth until the outlet had contacted her. After WBUR provided further evidence of Laudon’s misconduct in his previous job, he was removed as school resource officer, but has stayed on the town police force. The police department’s website continues to list him as an investigator who handles sexual assault reports.
WBUR’s reporting traced more than a dozen current Massachusetts police officers who had been fired or resigned from another police department after or during a misconduct investigation—only to find work at another department. Other examples included officers who have been accused of domestic violence, arrested for drunk driving incidents, or found impersonating someone on social media and making vulgar posts.
Due to the lack of a formal database tracking investigations of officer misconduct, officers like Laudon are easily able to shuffle between police departments. Some states don’t have state-level tracking or certification systems for officers, either, making it easy for officers like those WBUR tracked to shuffle across jurisdiction lines.
A Massachusetts law also requires police to keep private all reports and arrests for sexual and domestic violence—including those that are committed by police officers. Only cops themselves are able to access this information, which means those who have perpetrated abuse are unlikely to be publicly outed and barred from rejoining a different police department.
Sexual assault and intimate partner violence reports are routinely mishandled by police officers, who are known to misidentify the primary aggressor in abusive relationships; erroneously not believe that marital rape is real; and flag rapes that didn’t involve a weapon or were between individuals who used to be in a relationship as “false reports.” Studies from the 1990s found at least 40% of police officers self-identified as domestic abusers.
In 2020, Massachusetts passed legislation to adopt a state-wide certification system for officers, which will require police departments to investigate misconduct allegations and report the findings to the newly created Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, even if the officers being investigated have agreed to retire or resign. However, the commission couldn’t tell WBUR how it would handle officers who have engaged in misconduct and already found jobs in other police departments.