City Council threatens legal action against Springfield mayor in push for police commission

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Springfield City Council is threatening legal action against Mayor Domenic Sarno to push the implementation of a citizen police commission.

The Council has passed a number of ordinances since 2016 to do away with the police commissioner and implement a civilian board. In an online meeting, the City Council voted 11-2 to accept the free services of Northampton lawyers Thomas Lesser and Michael Aleo.

In 2018, the City Council overrode the mayor’s veto of the order, which then should have become a law according City Council members. Sarno has not appointed the civilian board of police commissioners so the council is seeking action.

City Councilor Jesse Lederman told 22News, “It is not about the city council versus the mayor. It is simply about establishing who has the authority as to how we continue move forward and represent our constituents and implement sound policy to governor the police department.”

If a civilian board of commissioners was implemented, it would give five Springfield residents, appointed by the mayor, the authority to hire, fire, and discipline Springfield Police officers. There would be a police chief who would oversee the day to day operations of the department instead of a sole commissioner having all this authority like there currently is.

City Councilor Marcus Williams told 22News, “Calling for a police commission in my mind with civilians at the table gives me more reassurance and trust that those police that actually have misconduct in their cases will also be reporter accurately.”

Sarno announced he will submit an ordinance to the City Council to strengthen the Civilian Community Police Hearing Board by granting powers to review police discipline matters and decisions.

In order to bring this dispute to court, the Springfield City Council will have to vote which will depend on the advice of the lawyers.

The last time Springfield had a five member commission was in 2005.

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