SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, known as POST, debuted a landmark database on Tuesday, releasing a complete list of disciplinary records from law enforcement agencies across the state for the very first time.
The POST Commission unveiled a complete disciplinary history from December 1984 through January 31st of this year. Included in the first-of-its-kind exhaustive report are reports alleging bias, actions that resulted in bodily injury or death, truthfulness or professional integrity, criminal misconduct, and other misconduct, all in an effort to boost accountability by increasing transparency.
“No officer wants to see themselves in these types of databases, so the assumption is that officers are continuously reminded of the high standards that are expected of them. And of course, the public being able to look at the discipline or infractions have been regarding misconduct is a major part of furthering that aspect of police accountability,” said Enrique Zuniga, The POST Commission Executive Director.
There are 440 agencies under the POST Commission’s purview, 167 did not have any complaints included. The average number of complaints per department was eight. The top three departments on the list are Massachusetts State Police, Springfield Police, and Boston Police.
Springfield Police had 417 documented complaints against 205 total officers, including 51 for excessive use of force. More than 200 received retraining and just over 100 officers were disciplined by suspension, 20 of those for a maximum of 30+ days. Eight were charged in court: Four misdemeanors and four felonies.
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno shared the following statement with 22News:
Of note, this data dates back to 1997. It is important to note that all the initiatives and reforms that have been implemented in recent years under my administration through the leadership of Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood are working. These complaints have been reduced dramatically, where this year to date only one complaint being registered by the POST Commission. Some of these initiatives and reforms are as follows:
- Springfield was the first in the state to implement body-worn cameras for every officer in the department.
- Creation of the Firearms Investigation Unit to focus on the increasing dangers of illegal guns in our community, and taking a record number of illegal guns off our streets.
- Utilizing the latest innovations in technology, such as the BolaWrap device – a nonlethal restraint device to assist officers in controlling an unruly individual that may be trying to harm themselves or others, and amending our training and use of force policies with an emphasis on de-escalating situations.
- C3 Community Policing initiative, which enhances and builds positive relationships with the community.
- Peer-to-Peer training, which provides peer support to officers who have experienced trauma due to critical incident response.
- Successful partnership with BHN when responding to mental health calls for service
- Leadership and professional development training program for supervisors at Babson College led by Springfield native and retired State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland.
Our Springfield Police Department continues to move forward in a positive direction and my administration is looking forward to continuing to advance and embrace these positive changes. We are at parity from the rank and file to supervisors, with two African-Americans, Rupert Daniel, and Lawrence Akers, serving as Deputy Chiefs. Our Police force reflects our community.
It is important to note that our brave and dedicated police officers continue to do a tremendous job, day-in and day-out, in a very stressful and challenging job – a job that not many individuals want to pursue anymore as evident by the significant decrease in applications to the Police Academy. The struggle to retain good officers and hire new officers is a nationwide issue that we must collectively look to address.”
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno
The level of detail is immense but varied. Each department reports instances how they see fit, enforcing their own discipline standards, and documenting in their own language, all of which have changed in practice over the time covered in the report.
“We expect in the medium term there will be a convergence of standards. Where we issue standards and regulations related to how discipline is going to be imposed by the commission and by others. That could come in the form of model policies or other requirements like that,” said Zuniga.
This release is a big milestone for the Post Commission, which formed out of a police reform bill passed by former Governor Charlie Baker back in 2020. In the future, the database will be updated on the first of each month.
Springfield Police Spokesperson Ryan Walsh told 22News the department will be working with the POST Commission to have more than 220 of those listed complaints removed because retraining is not disciplinary and they believe should not be considered complaints.
The following statement was sent to 22News by the Springfield Police Department:
“The Springfield Police Department is the third largest law enforcement agency in the Commonwealth with roughly 500 officers who respond to more than 260,000 calls for service each year. That is only a fraction of the number of individuals our officers have interactions with. We hold our officers accountable for their actions whether a complaint stems from an on or off-duty incident.
Although listed in this database as such, the Springfield Police Department does not consider “retraining” disciplinary. Complaints often stem from proactive policing and active engagement which we encourage, but rudeness or abruptness can result in retraining.
Since I became the Police Superintendent in 2019 we have instituted a number of measures to increase the public’s trust which in turn has reduced complaints.
Specifically in 2020 the Springfield Police Department became, at the time, the largest department in the Commonwealth to outfit every sworn member with body-worn-cameras. Since then the overall number of complaints against our officers has greatly diminished.
We created a Firearms Investigation Unit in July 2021 and they have seized more than 320 illegal firearms, doing so without a complaint.
Our officers encounter dangerous situations every day and I am proud to say they do so with the utmost professionalism.
There is an underlying issue in that there is shortage of quality candidates applying to be a police officer. This has led to individuals who would not have been hired in the past being disciplined and or terminated early in their careers for their off-duty behaviors. Unfortunately that trend may continue until the pendulum swings back to where this is a highly sought after profession.
Under my leadership we have also had Supervisors take part in and graduate from Babson College’s police leadership Blue Sky Program, our department for four years have co-responded to mental health calls with Behavioral Health Network clinicians and our officers have a peer-to-peer support program which takes a pro-active approach to dealing with the immense personal challenges our officers face. Our ultimate goal is provide our community with the best services possible when they are dealing with the police for more often than not the first time.”Springfield Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood