State police trooper who released Tsarnaev photos following Rolling Stone cover reassigned to midnight duty

The State Police sergeant who released dramatic photographs of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been reassigned to the Athol barracks to work the midnight shift, state police confirmed Thursday.

Murphy, a 25-year veteran of the force, has been assigned to the Athol barracks while he is under investigation to determine whether he violated department policy by releasing the photos of Tsarnaev the night he was captured after a shootout with police without authorization. Murphy provided the photos of Tsarnaev’s capture to Boston Magazine last month in response to a Rolling Stone magazine cover photo of Tsarnaev, saying it glamorized “the face of terror.”

David Procopio, a state police spokesman, said the assignment to Athol was not punitive.

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“This is not a demotion or discipline,” he said. “He is still a sergeant, and his pay and benefits are unaffected.”

Murphy was removed from the media relations unit, where he was a tactical photographer, he said.

Murphy had worked out of the Framingham headquarters, but was sent to the Athol barracks last week. He will have a chance to seek a new shift in a couple of weeks, Procopio said, and with his seniority will likely be able to choose a different assignment if he wishes.

Murphy’s lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette first reported Murphy’s reassignment.

Last month, Timothy Alben, the head of the state police, said he considered Murphy an “exemplary employee” and a man of honor. But he said employees could not be allowed to release confidential information related to investigations and prosecutions without consequences.

In Athol, residents have put up “Welcome to Athol Sgt. Murphy” signs in yards and coffee shops and have hung a banner over Route 2, the road he’ll be patrolling.

“I think we all felt that this was a gracious way to welcome the Sergeant,” selectwoman Susannah Whipps said Thursday. “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.”