20 Mass. cops on leave for expired gun permits

All the officers are expected to return to work immediately following the renewal of their permits

By Jack Encarnacao
The Patriot Ledger

QUINCY, Mass. — A termination proceeding against a former Quincy police officer that hinged on whether he could carry a gun prompted a spot check that resulted in 14 officers and six supervisors being placed on leave for expired gun licenses.

Capt. John Dougan said the department checked licenses last week and informed the officers on Friday and Monday that they would be placed on paid leave until they renewed their licenses.

"It's incumbent upon the officer to make sure your license is up to date," Dougan said. "We require it, and the chief wanted to make sure we were on top of it. Some guys, they have to be more cognizant of their license."

The license check came after police Chief Paul Keenan beat a termination appeal from former officer Joseph McGunigle by arguing that McGunigle couldn't serve as an officer without a valid license to carry a gun. Keenan had revoked McGunigle's license as a disciplinary action.

The license revocation was upheld by Quincy District Court Judge Mark Coven, who concluded it "was needed to ensure safety." In firing McGunigle, Keenan cited an internal police department policy implemented in the 1970s that requires all officers to have valid gun licenses as a condition of employment.

Dougan said the McGunigle matter was part of what triggered the recent review of officers' gun licenses.

The officers and supervisors placed on leave are expected to get their licenses renewed and be eligible to return to work within the next four days, Dougan said. The state firearms bureau has agreed to accelerate the renewal requests for the department, he said.

Dougan said the department, which has 149 officers, is not concerned about adequate staffing during the week. He said officers can be pulled out of units and assigned to patrol duty or vacation time can be canceled if shifts need to be covered.

Dougan said part of the reason so many officers had expired licenses was a change in the 90-day grace period allowed for gun license renewals.

He said a 1990s law changed the automatic 90-day grace period. Before it kicked in once the license expired, whereas now it takes effect only after a license holder has initiated the renewal process. Massachusetts Class A gun licenses are valid for six years.

Copyright 2013 The Patriot Ledger

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