SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The ACLU, the ACLU of Massachusetts, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) have filed a lawsuit calling for an investigation into the Springfield Police Department (SPD) for alleged violence and misconduct, as well as the Hampden District Attorney’s Office’s alleged failure to investigate and disclose that misconduct.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two people who were prosecuted in Hampden County, two criminal defense lawyers who practice in Hampden County, CPCS, and the bar advocate organization Hampden County Lawyers for Justice.
In July 2020, the results of an investigation into the department’s Narcotics Unit revealed what the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) report called a “pattern” of excessive force. The report detailed six years of egregious, excessive force and false reporting by the SPD. The report found that no entity, including the District Attorney’s office, properly investigated officers accused of misconduct, or to inform defendants about misconduct by officers who could testify against them.
“As we’ve seen nationwide in recent episodes of police abuse followed by prosecutorial inaction, prosecutors and police too often serve and protect each other, instead of the public,” said Somil Trivedi, Senior Staff Attorney in the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project.
Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood provided 22News with this statement:
“The Springfield Police Department has not been served and has not had the opportunity to review the lawsuit in question. Since being named as police commissioner two years ago, it has been my mission to modernize the Springfield Police Department and prioritize training and public service. We have seen positive early results including our mental health professional co-responder program, our approach to illegal firearms and a prioritization of internal affairs and holding all of our officers and employees accountable to the people of Springfield at all times, and we will continue those efforts.”Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood
The ACLU is asking the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to order an investigation into the SPD and an investigation into the Hampden District Attorney’s practices.
The other part of the lawsuit brings attention to past Massachusetts’ drug scandals in which a drug lab chemist was a member of the prosecution team.
“What was crucial in that situation was there to be a thorough investigation of what happened at those drug labs. And whether the information produced by those drug labs was reliable,” said Bill Newman, Director at the Western Massachusetts Legal Office of ACLU Massachusetts.
City Solicitor Ed Pikula also commented on the lawsuit, saying they’ve been actively involved in negotiations with the Department of Justice on their report.