SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Dozens gathered on the steps of Springfield City Hall to demand the resignation of Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.
Members of the Springfield Chapter of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council say change needs to happen within the city of Springfield and specifically the police department.
Following a meeting in May, Commissioner Clapprood wrote a letter to the Senior Action Council responding to their claims that the police department are murders, racists, and biased.
Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood’s full statement:
“I am a strong and unwavering advocate for the 500-plus women and men serving in one of the most diverse police departments in New England.
Our staff and officers comprise a hard-working, dedicated group of people who devote their lives to public safety and service. The Springfield Police Department has made great strides in recent years as we seek to become a more modern and progressive agency that is in line with the best practices expected by our public.
We acknowledge the endemic problems including systemic racism that have plagued the criminal justice system for far too long. We are committed to being an active participant in the conversation and movement to create not only a more fair and representative criminal justice system but to create a more open and inclusive society.
I will continue to speak up in advocacy of our agency and the good work it does. Our stated goal is to move the department forward. We welcome efforts nationally and here in Massachusetts to improve the profession of policing, and I pledge an open door policy and promise an open and honest dialog with anyone who shares these goals in earnest. “Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood
“She refuses to acknowledge the history of abuse and lacks the understanding of systemic racism, implicit bias, or white privilege. As Black and Brown elders in our communities, it is clear to us that Commissioner Clapprood is not the person to lead the department toward meaningful reform,” said Mattie Lacewell, Springfield Chapter President of Mass Senior Action.
The Springfield Police Department has a long history of allegations regarding the excessive use of force and concerns raised by groups and government entities ranging from the ACLU to the U.S. Department of Justice and members of the Springfield City Council.
The mother of Delano Walker, who died when he was 15-years-old after being involved in a confrontation with the police when he was hit by a car in the street, joined the event and spoke publicly for the first time also demanding change.
“Stop erasing what these people did. We teach our kids from growing up what’s wrong and what’s right. How come you’re not doing the same for the Springfield police,” said Walker.
While there were dozens of supporters, there was on single counter-protestor showing support for the city of Springfield, the police department, and the mayor.
In a statement, Mayor Domenic Sarno told 22News that he had a productive meeting with City Council President Marcus Williams and Commissioner Clapprood concerning, “sensitivity issues” and will continue that dialogue.
Sarno said in part, “I understand that we are not 100-percent correct and that we face challenges but we are always striving to be better and make things better for everyone in our community.”
“The respectful thing for all of us to do right now is to become one unit, one village, one community as we move forward,” said Debra Fletcher of Springfield.
Commissioner Clapprood issued a statement saying that she will continue to speak up for the department and the good work it does.
At-Large Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman issues the following statement regarding the letter sent by Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood to the Massachusetts Senior Action Council’s Springfield Chapter:
“The members of the Springfield Chapter of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council are dedicated and longtime residents of our community. They have built up Springfield throughout their personal lives, their professional careers, and through their community service. They are also parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to our next generations, and have gained much experience, wisdom, and insight. Having met many times with members of the Mass Senior Action Council and having worked with them on community initiatives in the past I know them to be genuine in their intent and mission of improving the lives of Springfield residents, and I value their contributions greatly.
I am disappointed by the letter sent to the Mass Senior Action Council, both in its dismissal of the concerns raised by the members who are elders in our community, and in its dismissal of the reforms proposed to improve policing, public safety, and community/police relations.
As public servants we must always strive to do better, and we have an obligation to listen to and learn from the experiences of our neighbors and constituents. This is especially critical when it comes to improving the relationship between the community and the police, and especially at this time as we work to rebuild trust and implement reform in the wake of the DOJ report.
This is why the City Council has advocated so strongly for reforms to improve transparency and accountability in policing, including the restoration of a Civilian Police Commission, the implementation of body-worn cameras, and the pursuit of state and national accreditation. I believe that these reforms, along with other efforts at the local and state level, will have a meaningful impact on improving community trust in the Police Department and ensuring that our officers who are showing up to keep their oath to protect and serve have the tools and relationships they need to serve the community and to do their jobs safely.
It is essential that a commitment to these changes, and a willingness to work together with the community, be present at all levels of leadership in our city. The challenges we face today will not be solved by ignoring them, and to dismiss history is to doom ourselves to repeat it.”Jesse Lederman, Springfield City Councilor At-Large