SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Hampden DA’s office received a rebuttal document and released it to the public after a years-long investigation into the Springfield Police Narcotics Bureau by the U.S. Department of Justice.
In April 2018, the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated an investigation of the Springfield Police Department’s Narcotics Bureau for “a pattern or practice of using excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The City of Springfield invited the DOJ to look into the patterns and practices of its Narcotics Unit from 2013-2018. The DOJ said investigators conducted an in-depth review of the police department’s documents, including over 100,000 pages of written policies and procedures, training materials, and internal reports, data, video footage, and investigative files.
Following an investigation, the DOJ announced in July 2020 that it has found reasonable cause to believe the Narcotics Bureau engaged in the use of excessive force.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni made multiple requests beginning in April 2019 to the DOJ for “any potentially exculpatory material to defendants in cases in which these officers may be involved.” However, the requests were denied by the DOJ. In lieu of these specifics cited in the DOJ report, the City of Springfield has granted the Hampden District Attorney’s Office access to these more than 114,000 pages of documents originally supplied to the DOJ.
In May 2021, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court demanding documents the DOJ used in an investigation of the Springfield Police Department’s Narcotics Bureau.
A 29-page Rebuttal to the DOJ by Springfield Deputy Chief of Police Steven Kent was sent in October 2020. This document has now been released to the public Thursday by the Hampden District Attorney’s Office since the litigation between the City of Springfield and the DOJ has concluded.
“While this document is not what has been sought from the Department of Justice, it is the best known and now accessible document that can shed light on the basis of the federal government’s investigation,” according to a news release by the Hampden District Attorney’s Office.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni stated, “Assertions made in the DOJ report remain a concern to this day, as they call on our ethical duties as prosecutors to provide any information to defendants that could point to their innocence or aid them in their defense. Despite our best efforts to obtain this critically important information from the United States Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice, we have been repeatedly denied and our lawsuit is still pending in federal court. Our goal has always been to get the specifics of these serious allegations so that we can ensure the rights of accused persons are protected and fairness results from our work. If there are bad cops who are dishonest and not following the law, we want to know about it and make sure they do not stand as witnesses in our cases or affect the fairness of our criminal justice system.”
In April 2022, the City of Springfield entered into a consent decree with the DOJ which means the police department will have to make a series of changes that will be enforced by court order. The department has since implemented changes and ultimately shut down the narcotics bureau, replacing it with a new gun unit.
Under the consent decree:
- Officers will have to report all uses of force including punches and kicks.
- Officers will have a duty to intervene to prevent excessive force.
- The Springfield Police will have to create a new force investigation team to investigate the most serious use of force.
- Officers will receive improved policies and training related to officer’s use of force.
According to Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood, the use of body-worn cameras and disciplinary action has helped hold officers accountable for their actions. The Springfield Police Department has also hosted several meetings with the public over the last few months to provide updates on the consent decree and what the police department plans to change in the future.