Investigation into Springfield Police Department’s Narcotics Unit finds ‘pattern of excessive force’

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A years-long investigation into the Narcotics Bureau of the Springfield Police Department by the U.S. Department of Justice has revealed “a pattern or practice of using excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” 

The Office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling announced that the investigation found the Narcotics Bureau’s pattern or practice of excessive force is directly attributable to systemic deficiencies in policies, which fail to require detailed and consistent use-of-force reporting, and accountability systems that do not provide meaningful reviews of uses of force. 

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“As demonstrated by recent events, it is crucial that our urban police departments keep the trust of their communities and ensure accountability for officer misconduct. Our investigation of the Springfield Police Department over the last year revealed chronic issues with the use of force, poor record keeping on that subject, and repeated failures to impose discipline for officer misconduct. That said, the Police Department and the City of Springfield have fully cooperated with this investigation and have made clear their commitment to genuine reform. We look forward to working with them to make Springfield a safer place.” 

United State Attorney Andrew E. Lelling

The investigation was conducted pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and was announced on April 13, 2018. Its findings, a 28-page report, comes as a petition demanding the removal of the current police commissioner, Cheryl Clapprood, has been created with over 600 signatures.

Clapprood, a 40 year veteran of the department, was appointed police commissioner in September 2019, after serving as acting commissioner for six months following the sudden retirement of then-Commissioner John Barbieri. Barbieri was with the department for 31-years.

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At a news conference announcing his retirement, Mayor Domenic Sarno told 22News it was a “mutually accepted decision.” The mayor then named Clapprood, who was deputy police chief at the time, to acting commissioner. She was officially sworn in on October 8, 2019.

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.  

DOJ attorneys and investigators also conducted interviews with Springfield Police officers, supervisors and command staff, and city officials, and met with community members and local advocates.  

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I’ve said many times that being a police officer is the toughest job in America. We owe these public servants our respect and our support. But with this high calling comes a tremendous responsibility to uphold the public trust. The Department of Justice is committed to supporting our law enforcement while holding departments accountable that violate this sacred trust. The Department will work with the City of Springfield and the Police Department to ensure that the police officers and people of Springfield get the law enforcement agency they deserve, one that effectively and constitutionally stops violent crime and narcotics trafficking.

Attorney General William Barr

The Justice Department said Springfield Police cooperated with their investigation and has already begun to implement a number of remedial measures. 

Springfield Police spokesperson Ryan Walsh confirmed to 22News that Springfield Police received the DOJ report Wednesday evening as well. He said they are reviewing the findings before making a formal statement.

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