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I-Team: Police testing new equipment causes concern in neighborhood

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WWLP) – The Springfield Police Department is apologizing to residents in East Springfield and Chicopee after a video surfaced showing their officers shooting into a dump truck in a residential neighborhood.

Some neighbors said they were so concerned that they contacted police because they thought there was a shooting. They also contacted 22News I-Team to find out if those officers were breaking the law.

The peace of a quiet September afternoon was suddenly interrupted by the sound of gunfire.  “And all of a sudden I hear this bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam,” Chicopee resident Robert Arrison said.

Neighbors captured the incident on video. Springfield Police officers were firing their weapons into the sand in the rear of a dump truck – parked at their public safety complex on East Street.

People who live in this residential neighborhood on the Chicopee/Springfield line were caught off guard.

“Everyone was complaining because of no previously warning in the first place that they were going to do this,” Arrison said. “Second day they were doing it everyone came down the street in the neighborhood.”

Neighbors contacted the 22News I-Team. They wanted to know why officers were firing their weapons so close to their homes – and they questioned whether it was legal. Springfield Police spokesman Ryan Walsh told 22News that officers were testing new equipment, under controlled conditions at a police department facility.  “There’s a public safety exemption and there’s ordinance actually speaking to that in the city. So there’s nothing illegal about it for police officers or law enforcement to do that,” Springfield Police spokesperson Ryan Walsh said.

The 22News I-Team checked, and city code backs up what Walsh said. The 22News I-Team also learned that, under state law, It’s illegal for you to fire a weapon within 500 feet of a home, but there are exemptions for law enforcement. Walsh told the I-Team officers took precautions at their East Street facility, using specialized ammunition.

Walsh explained that officers were using a different type of ammunition that they don’t use while patrolling city streets, but it can still cause bodily harm or even death. “It’s what they use for training, Walsh said. “It’s what they use in the police academy.  It’s very common for instruction, education.”

Walsh said police used their robocall system to warn East Springfield neighbors of the testing.

He also admitted that their calling system did not include the Chicopee residents living just over city line from where tests took place.  The 22News I-Team followed up with a number of East Springfield homeowners, asking if they received an automated message. Only one said yes, but they received that call after the testing had started.

Neighbors worried about children in the area.  “Billy over here next door. He has three grandchildren that are here all the time,” Chicopee resident Robert Arrison said. “And [if] they were to walk up the street, who knows what would have happened.”

The Springfield Police Department has been using that property for about two years.

The U.S. military used it as an armory before that. Neighbors said even then – they never once heard gunfire there. “We weren’t being the best neighbor. We listened to the complaints, decided to move and it’s not going to happen again,” Walsh said.

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