** My bio: ** I wrote an article for the Boston Globe that found at least 30 police officers in Massachusetts have been charged with drunk driving since 2012 - but most kept their jobs, sometimes after only brief suspensions. The story has gotten some notice on Reddit.

I recently wrote another article about the frequency of on-duty crashes involving police.

I am currently an investigative reporter for the Boston Globe and previously worked for several other newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Herald, and the Dayton Daily News.

I will start answering questions around 12:30 PM ET and will be available until around 1:15 pm. But you can always email me offline at [email protected] or call me at 617-929-2069. I'm on twitter at @twallack. I really appreciate story tips and suggestions.

My Proof: @twallack

Comments: 105 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

gsinewave71 karma


captain_reddit_43 karma

Give OP a break. It's not like he writes clear and concise titles for a living.

TWALLACK27 karma

I actually don't write headlines -- our copy editors handle that -- but I see your point. Good catch, as they say.

legalize-drugs23 karma

Is there any effort in Massachusetts toward a civilian review board of the police?

Also, thanks for your work.

TWALLACK24 karma

No. There's no statewide board. (I actually heard from a reader who tried unsuccessfully to start one 20 years ago.) Some cities and towns have their own review boards, but they are not always well known or used. Take the one in Boston, for example.

spacester23 karma

Why would the Globe hire cops to drive drunk?

TWALLACK19 karma

The Globe doesn't need to. It seems to be happening by itself.

Stuckin_Foned16 karma

Now that studies have proven most Military deaths are from suicide, do you think a lot of cops experience PTSD?

TWALLACK21 karma

It's a really good question. I believe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is incredibly common among military veterans and many police are veterans. (Plus, police work has its own stressful situations). As you saw in the story, one of the officers fired for drunk driving is now suing the department for failing to accommodate his alcohol problems, which he said resulted from PTSD.

battle10 karma

How many times do you think cops that were stopped for drunk driving were simply let go by the cops that stopped them? This is probably the most common occurrence when a drunk cop gets pulled over.

TWALLACK18 karma

I wish I knew. There were four cases in the last three years that I know about where officers have been caught drunk driving but were not arrested, triggering a formal investigation when superiors found out. But I've heard whispers of many other incidents. How do you count something that isn't recorded?

ArrogantObserver9 karma

What's the most shocking thing you've discovered since beginning this investigation?

TWALLACK21 karma

I was surprised to find so many police officers stayed on the payroll even after they refused a breathalyzer test, causing their driver's license to be suspended for at least 180 days. Police normally need a driver's license to do their job, so I was surprised departments would continue to pay them -- either by putting them on paid leave or giving them a desk job.

forCommentsOnly6 karma

Have you investigated why cops stay on the payroll?

I would assume it has to do with the cost of replacing an officer.

TWALLACK12 karma

That could be a factor. One department mentioned that it probably costs $150,000 to hire and train a new officer. I suspect officers also want to give their fellow officers a second chance. Several chiefs mentioned that officers are people just like anyone else and sometimes make mistakes.

Euchre1 karma

I bet said unlicensed officers drove to work, knowing their fellow officers wouldn't ticket or arrest them for doing so.

TWALLACK10 karma

Other people have said the same thing. I don't really know. It's speculation. But it is true that "professional courtesy" is so common that the state Civil Service Commission questioned whether it was fair to discipline an officer who failed to report a traffic stop of a fellow officer.

inoeth7 karma

Do you think that this report will actually have any consequences? By that, I mean, do you think that police officers who should have be punished but weren't will now get at least a slap on the wrist, if nothing else, and may result in future offenders actually getting punished?

TWALLACK11 karma

Good question. At a minimum, I want to get the conversation started. I want people to think about whether they are happy about the situation. I don't think many people realized so many officers were getting caught for drunk driving and kept their jobs -- and perhaps weren't even arrested.

inoeth3 karma

It's very interesting to hear about this when just earlier in the week the BPD were being praised for their handling of the various protests that have/are occurring. I've also listened to the PBD chief talk on NPR about the handling of protests and some of the issues with the police force, and I wonder if this will be discussed next time he's on NPR with Jim and Margery.


I like Jim Braude and Margery Eagan -- they are actually on a local NPR affiliate, WGBH -- and I agree it would be a good topic for them to bring up.

BillHicksIsDead4 karma

How can we get these shitty police practices to change?


Think about who police work for. They generally answer to a mayor, city council or other public officials who have to run for re-election every few years and care about what voters think. In the case of state troopers, it is generally the governor and lawmakers (who control the budget).

hpcisco79653 karma

Do you have any apprehension about investigating police officers? If there's one group of folks who could mess with you and get away with it, it would be cops.


I've had a lot of people (jokingly) advise me not to drive for a while. But I am honestly not worried. I think we're fortunate to live in a country where it is generally safe for journalists to work. So many journalists have died in Iraq, Mexico and other countries. I assume the worst that will happen to me here is that I'll get some angry mail and some people will look up my criminal and driving history. (They will be disappointed. I've never been arrested and haven't even had a speeding ticket in 15 years or so.)

heat_forever-1 karma

So you admit to having a history of speeding that extends back over to 15 years ago, potentially plowing through children and grandmothers and perhaps wantonly and recklessly engaging in an orgy of vehicular death and your reddit name is TWALLICK? Is that true?

Answer just Yes or No please, for the record.


I try to go to the speed limit -- a friend says I drive "like a blue hair." But I did get one or two speeding tickets driving across country in the 1990s. I paid the tickets and tried to drive slower.

DonutsPlzTY3 karma

Given the expose done by the globe a few years ago regarding the overwhelming leniency given to OUI offenders in the state of Massachusetts, why would the Globe take this position now? How can you expose the lack of justice to OUI offenders (civilian) and then criticize off-duty police officers for benefiting from the same system?


I was focusing on how police departments handle OUIs, rather than judges. But they do go hand in hand. One of the issues in Massachusetts is that it is one of the few states where the refusal to take a breath test can't be held against you in court. To persuade people to take the test, the state suspends people's licenses for at least 180 days after a refusal. But it turns out police departments enable offices to refuse the tests by giving them paid leave or desk jobs when they lose their licenses for a refusal.

tn_notahick3 karma

Can you tell us about any blow-back or resistance you've received from either your employer (did they fully support you?) and/or anyone on the police's side? Has writing these articles effected your ability to get info for other unrelated articles (lost sources, etc.)?


My editors are very supportive of the story. We run a lot of articles spotlighting the positive work police do, but we also try to hold officials accountable when they do something wrong. There is no question that some people get upset when I write a tough story and stop taking my calls for a while. But I think most people realize that the story will be more accurate and balanced if they do take my calls and offer their side.

jsbos2253 karma

Piggybacking off of this question...

You may not have a response to this. I am not sure if you were involved specifically but nevertheless I'll try: Globe spotlight can be incredibly harsh in terms of the things they investigate. What comes to mind is the recent probation scandal. Did the globe in anyway forsee federal indictments being handed down, yet alone convictions? Doesn't it seem that the spotlight team singled out people who were just following the customs within the department? I support the globes work in showing us wrongs, but I see the result of this story as people being scapegoated... and I am curious what the goal was of the spotlight team from the beginning. Also one of the reporters seemed incredibly blood hungry in going after John J Obrien and I am curious why, even the judge realized that these people were just following the culture within their department.

Also with the recent UVA/RollingStone craziness... one might wonder, did you reach out to the police officers accused to make your story well balanced?

I admire the work of the Boston Globe, I don't mean to be critical, only to inquire as to the means that these stories are developed...


I am glad you are asking the questions. I think Spotlight focused on probation because it was a particularly egregious example. Departments didn't just give preference to relatives or supporters of lawmakers. They also covered it up with phony job searches and interviews to hide the favoritism (which is what prompted the fraud charges). I think some Globe opinion writers, however, had misgivings about singling out a few people for a broader problem. As to your second question: I wrote letters to every officer named in the story (with the exception of one where I only learned the name just before the story ran). I also tried calling officers and their attorneys where I found phone numbers. I actually think stories are better -- if more complicated -- when the subjects of investigations are willing to talk.

sclark342 karma

30 cops in 2 years...How is this statistically significant? How do these numbers stack up against other professions? Seems to be more just piling on to the whole cop hating that is now popular.

TWALLACK15 karma

Unfortunately, there are no statistics of arrests by occupation. I am sure there are more than 30 police in Massachusetts who have been caught drunk driving since 2012 -- those are just the ones I could find by combing through news articles and contacting the largest departments. Prosecutors and courts told me they don't track it. In addition, officers are not always arrested when they are caught, apparently drunk, behind the wheel. But I thought there were enough incidents that it was worth looking at what happens to the officers.

johnsaysthings1 karma

I'm a college student studying journalism, possibly interested in doing the kind of thing you do. Do you have any tips about how to be successful in your field?


I hope you aren't taking on a lot of student loans! Journalism is not the highest paying job, but I find it incredibly rewarding. I get to talk to smart interesting people for a living. I am able to learn about new subjects. And I am able to tell important stories that need to be told. My advice for people going into journalism is to try to get as much experience as possible. Get internships, work for college media. I worked for my school papers and did four internships before I graduated.

Euchre0 karma

What is your opinion of the 'hate the police' movement?

What role do you feel your reporting on police misconduct issues will play in such movements?

I have seen a lot of postings on the internet about the misbehavior of police by 'civil rights activists'. Although the criticism of misconduct may be valid, I see a lot of people who simply rebel and agitate against any authority not their own.


I think police have a hard, but necessary job. We need people to enforce the laws. But I understand people are frustrated with particular incidents.


I'm going to sign off, but thanks for all the comments. Feel free to message me off line.

CrazyCapitalist-2 karma

I have a question, would you be willing to do as many stories about good guy cops as the media does bad ones? It seems to me that there is a very one sided timeline of reporting going on that specifically paints all law enforcement in a bad light.


We actually wrote a story two weeks ago about 25 officers who won awards for courage. I think it's important we write those stories. But I also think it's important we hold officials accountable for wrongdoing.