Report cites culture of ‘fear’ at academy for judicial officers

CHICOPEE, Mass. (AP) – Recruits in training to be judicial officers in Massachusetts have been punched in the face and suffocated by some instructors who have created a culture of fear, an investigation has found.

The 100-page report on conditions at the Trial Court Officer Academy in Chicopee released Thursday revealed incidents of violence against at least five members of the academy’s last class, and members of several classes “described a culture of fear, intimidation, humiliation, disrespect, discipline based on punishment and retaliation, ”the Boston Globe reported.

The report, dated December 17, was written by a team of independent reviewers. Judicial officers provide security in state courts.

The academy was closed in September after allegations of abuse arose and remains closed, according to a statement from Paula Carey, chief judge of the trial court, and court administrator John Bello.

The report’s recommendations are under review, they said.

The academy adopted a “paramilitary” training model in 2014 as part of an effort to “professionalize” itself, but it used instructors who were neither trained nor qualified for the job, according to the report.

The evaluators recommended that the academy consider adopting a “non-residential day college model” and moving to a better equipped facility.

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