SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The City of Springfield has entered into a consent decree with the Justice Department which means the police department will have to make a series of changes that will be enforced by court order.
The agreement comes years after the Department of Justice began an investigation into the Springfield Police Department’s Narcotics Bureau which found a pattern of excessive force, poor record-keeping and other problems. The department has since implemented changes and ultimately shut down the narcotics bureau, replacing it with a new gun unit.
Under the new consent decree:
- Officers will have to report all uses of force including punches and kicks.
- Officers will have a duty to intervene to prevent excessive force.
- The Springfield Police will have to create a new force investigation team to investigate the most serious use of force.
- Officers will receive improved policies and training related to officer’s use of force.
An independent monitor will be appointed to ensure the city cooperates and that monitor will also communicate with police, members of the community, and the Department of Justice.
“When communities don’t trust or fear law enforcement, it undermines public safety. Some within the Springfield Police Department, through their sustained and documented constitutional violations, have tarnished the name of the many upstanding and decent police officers working in Springfield,” said U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins. “Today is the first step in repairing the harm and mistrust their misconduct and violence caused. After lengthy negotiations, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that includes significant and sustainable reforms to ensure effective and constitutional policing going forward in the City of Springfield. This is the first police misconduct Settlement Agreement entered during the Biden Administration. Our U.S. Attorney’s Office will always protect the constitutional rights of Massachusetts residents.”
Watch below: U.S. Attorney Rollins discusses Springfield Police agreement
“The public’s trust in law enforcement is a critical component of promoting public safety. Excessive force erodes that trust and makes our communities less safe,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This consent decree will rebuild the public’s trust by ensuring that Springfield officers who use excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment are held accountable. We look forward to working with city officials to ensure constitutional policing in every corner of the Springfield community and fostering better relationships between law enforcement and the community.”
Clarke said it also requires transparency in the selection process for commissioners and the board conducts thorough and timely reviews of complaints. The investigation that prompted this settlement was started before Superintendent Clapprood took the reigns.
Statement from Mayor Domenic Sarno:
“I would like to thank my internal team led by retired City Solicitor Ed Pikula, Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood, new City Solicitor Judge John Payne, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins and her DOJ team.
Our brave and dedicated men and women in blue do a tremendous job day in and day out. Policing is a dangerous but still a very honorable profession and everyone knows that throughout my career I have been one of SPD’s biggest supporters in good times and bad. However, Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood and I found these issues and deficiencies concerning and we cooperated fully with the DOJ in their investigation. We acknowledge that past misconduct should not have occurred and it is our goal that it does not happen in the future. Simply put, it’s a balance between public safety and cop accountability. Working together with the DOJ and our internal city team, including former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Roderick L. Ireland, the City is striving to have the best Police Department possible. Additionally, we were quick to move to correct and enhance our policing practices once these issues were found. Since that time, under Superintendent Clapprood’s leadership, our SPD have implemented numerous reforms and initiatives aimed and focused on improving and enhancing our policing practices, training, and document and record tracking to increase accountability and transparency.
This has been a long and extensive process but in the end it is a well negotiated agreement between the City of Springfield and the DOJ,” Mayor Sarno said. “I want to thank everyone involved for their continued efforts working around the clock in continuing to enhance our city and improve our policing practices for the betterment of our residents and business community. Much of these agreed measures put forth in this agreement are already in place or are in the process of be implemented under the leadership of Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood and her leadership team. Those items not already being addressed will be reviewed and the process to implement them will be forth coming under the settlement agreement.”Mayor Domenic Sarno
Statement from Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood:
“We have worked closely with our Department of Justice liaisons and Springfield city officials throughout this process. The reforms that have already been implemented and those that remain in-progress and forthcoming are the culmination of years of collaboration and effort by all involved. I recognize the responsibility we have to address past issues within our department, and I thank everyone for their work to institute meaningful change that will create a better, more modern Springfield Police Department.
“In recent years, I have worked as Superintendent to pursue and implement a number of reforms that have strengthened our agency’s policies and procedures. These changes have improved our accountability and police legitimacy in the eyes of those we serve. I’d like to thank U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins for her support and encouragement about the progress we have made in recent years.
“We have also made transparency a cornerstone of our operations. The Springfield Police Department has acquired early warning intervention software that collects and assesses data to identify trends in troublesome conduct, and I am very proud that all sworn personnel now wear body-worn cameras while on duty. Our Use-of-Force and Internal Investigations Unit policies have been modernized, and we have begun the process toward achieving the department’s first-ever, voluntary and self-initiated State Certification.
“We have already seen encouraging outcomes as a result of these reforms. In 2021 body-worn camera footage helped to resolve all seven use-of-force complaints against officers, including one against the now-former Narcotics Unit, with zero of the complaints being sustained. This work will continue in the coming years as we plan for additional changes, including a new state-of-the-art Records Management System and transforming how we respond to, report and investigate use-of-force calls.
“We remain committed to making Springfield a safer place each day, and doing so in a way that prioritizes respect, nobility and service, and builds trust within the community. We look forward to sharing additional information in the future as we continue our work.”Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood