Massachusetts state police photographer Sgt. Sean Murphy, who made headlines for releasing pictures of accused Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been assigned to a midnight shift in Athol, Massachusetts, in a move that state police insist is not discipline or a demotion but is widely seen as such.
'He is under investigation for possibly violating departmental policy and regulations by releasing departmental material obtained in his media relations position without authorization,' state police spokesman David Procopio told the Boston Herald this week.
'Therefore, for the integrity of the investigation, he was removed from the unit. It is not a demotion. He is still a sergeant, and his pay and benefits are unaffected.
'He is on the midnight shift but that is only because of the slot that was open. He will have the opportunity to bid for a different shift when the new bid cycle comes in a couple of weeks, and given his seniority, he could probably change his shift if he wishes,' Procopio said.
Murphy, 48, reportedly released his photos of a bloodied and battered Tsarnaev without department permission. The photos showed Tsarnaev’s capture after a manhunt and a shootout with police. At the time Murphy said he did so in response to a Rolling Stone magazine cover photo of Tsarnaev which he objected to, saying it glamorized 'the face of terror.'
Murphy’s attorney Leonard Kesten confirmed he'll be on highway patrol from 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. when he returns from sick leave.
Asked if the move was viewed by them as punitive, Kesten reportedly replied, 'One can draw their own conclusions. I certainly am delighted to hear the citizens of Athol are already welcoming Sean.'
Kesten added that Murphy 'loves the state police' and is simply trying to get back to his job. He was on restricted duty in mid-July because of the photos when he was injured in a non-work-related incident. Kesten said it’s unclear when Murphy will return to active duty.
Residents of Athol, which is geographically isolated from the major cultural centers of Massachusetts, have heard he's been transferred to the barracks to work the midnight shift and have made moves to welcome him to town and to let him know they understand why he did what he did, the Herald reports.
'Welcome to Athol, Sgt. Murphy' signs have appeared in yards and coffee shops. A banner has also reportedly been hung over Route 2, the road he will be patrolling at night.
'I think we all felt that this was a gracious way to welcome the sergeant,' local Selectwoman Susannah Whipps told the press this week. 'If he was feeling at all down about driving in to a new town for an overnight shift, we thought a sign here or there would give him a boost.'
Kesten said Murphy knew he had been assigned to Athol, but only learned from news reports that he would be working nights. Murphy has reportedly been out of work since he sustained injuries not related to his work in mid-July.