It has been clear since it came to light four months ago that an outside investigation is needed to look into how Massachusetts State Police and others handled the arrest report of a local judge’s daughter. On Friday came news that 18 state troopers caught up in a different scandal involving allegations of overtime pay abuse were suspended or retired. Sandwiched in between last month, was the suspension of a state trooper, a Worcester native, who was hired - apparently clearing a background check - despite her involvement in and testimony on a large-scale marijuana operation some 18 years ago.

The scandals that have struck the department potentially could involve public safety, but also public confidence in our legal system. They involve not only members of the state police, but also how political leaders have both attended to and neglected the agency over years, if not decades.

Only an investigation by an outside entity without close ties to the state police can generate the appropriate confidence in its findings.

U.S. attorney in Boston Andrew Lelling needs to step in. That state police detectives are embedded by statute as investigators, not only in every district attorney’s office but also in the attorney general’s office, creates too many potential conflicts for THE state attorney general’s office to investigate. We don’t know who ultimately is responsible for these issues, or how much might be criminal. But the overtime allegations alone involve the sort of fraud for which state police arrest other people.

State Police Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin, who stepped into the position in November, is working through a maelstrom of issues. Knowledgeable people trust her integrity and are sympathetic to the difficulties of her challenge.

But making it even tougher, and a symptom of the issues she faces, is that she is in essence a political appointee, serving at the whim of political leaders. How does she investigate the infamous arrest report when it involves allegations that rise levels above her into the governor’s cabinet and that were “incontrovertibly” denied by the man who appointed her.

Our first recommendation for reform involves a professionalization that includes a contract for the top officials, clear pathways for advancement, and the elimination of a requirement that only an insider from the ranks can fill the top post. For too long, in the opinion of some, the superintendent’s office has been like a reward for service culminating in an individual stepping into the lead, promoting colleagues they’ve worked with, who then all retire and are replaced by the next group to come in.

It’s commonly known that assignments to the Massachusetts Turnpike and to Logan Airport are plum appointments for those who want to make a lot of money in overtime and special details. That it wasn’t the state police but the media that appears to have first brought to light the overtime issue is an indication of multiple failures. Abuse on this scale should be easy to detect.

Finally, recruitment and training classes are at the whim of state funding. They should be an annual process that would involve smaller classes. It would enable more thorough background checks, closer training and then monitoring after graduation.

The state police needs an overhaul. Public confidence is at stake.