Springfield City Council votes to override mayor’s veto of board of police commissioners

Hampden County

The Springfield City Council voted to override Mayor Domenic Sarno’s veto and re-establish the board of police commissioners Monday night, but the mayor said it cannot be done.

The board would be a five-person committee responsible for the hiring, firing, and discipline in the police department. Duties currently handled by Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri.

City Councilors told 22News the commission will be adopted over the mayor’s objections.

“The way that the police commission ordinance is written it would take effect at the moment it is passed it becomes law,” said City Council President Orlando Ramos. “It would become law immediately, effective immediately.”

Earlier this month, Mayor Sarno vetoed City Council’s approval of a board of police commissioners.

Mayor Sarno spoke with 22News after the vote and said, with Springfield’s “strong form of mayoral government, Charter-A, it legally cannot be done.” Also, with Police Commissioner John Barbieri still under contract, the City Council would have to sue the City of Springfield at a great expense. 

Mayor Sarno told 22News that City Attorney Ed Pikula agrees; that a police commission cannot be formed unless the mayor approved it.

The proposed ordinance revises the language of an ordinance that the City Council passed in 2016, which re-established a board of police commissioners.

City Councilor Melvin Edwards told 22News the revised ordinance gives Mayor Sarno the full power of appointing the members of the commission, instead of the City Council. He said Mayor Sarno was unaware that a police commission had already been established.

“He said we were trying to re-establish a committee,” Edwards said. “The committee was established two years ago. The members were just never appointed so it’s been on the books for that long.”

Mayor Domenic Sarno opposed both the proposed police commission revised ordinance and the Welcoming Community Trust Act, but Edwards said they have the votes to override the mayor’s vetos. 

City Councilor Justin Hurst told 22News he’s in favor of implementing a police board of commissioners because of recent criticism regarding how the department handles alleged police misconduct. 

But Mayor Sarno said the way it is now is working well, and that’s why he vetoed City Council’s original vote. 

You can view the full ordinance documents below:

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