Mayor Domenic J. Sarno announced today that he is planning a series of structured dialogues between police officers, community members and groups, with an emphasis on those who previously have not had strong or positive relationships with the police department. The Mayor’s goal is to promote and strengthen community partnerships and positive interactions between Springfield residents and Police Officers. These structured dialogues will begin with a Community Police Hearing Board (CPHB) public hearing in September.
“I have asked the Community Police Hearing Board to begin the process by conducting a public hearing in September to seek community input to help develop strategies to improve community relations. These hearings are the next step towards my goals by listening to residents about public safety priorities as well as recommendations with regard to reforms as we begin our efforts in cooperation with the Department of Justice,” Mayor Sarno stated.
On July 8, 2020, the Department of Justice issued an investigative report determining that there is reasonable cause to believe that Springfield Police Department Narcotics Bureau officers have engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force, which is directly attributable to systemic deficiencies in SPD’s policies, accountability systems, and training. In response to the report, Mayor Sarno pledged to cooperate with the DOJ acknowledging that problems exist in the Police Department and that he is committed to reform.
Mayor Sarno added that the Police Department and Law Department has been reviewing the details of the report in preparation for upcoming discussions with the DOJ in reaching an agreement detailing reforms to be implemented.
“Springfield Police officers perform an immense service to the Springfield community that often places them in dangerous situations. While the Department does not agree with every finding or opinion referenced in the DOJ Report, we must acknowledge that we have deficiencies and actions are needed to promote integrity in our police department to ensure constitutional policing. The Report identifies serious issues that must be addressed,” said Mayor Sarno. “We have spent millions on court cases involving allegations of police misconduct. The only way to reverse this trend, is to focus our attention and resources on implementing a better community oriented policing model and to become an exemplar of modern community-oriented policing for the entire region and for other cities of similar size. We have an opportunity to positively address failures of the past and make policing in Springfield lawful, safer, and more effective”.
Under the leadership of Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood, the police Department has already undertaken efforts to implement changes recommended by an outside consultant, the Police Executive Research Foundation (PERF), to implement new policies and practices. Mayor Sarno obtained a budget appropriation for the creation of a municipal Office on Racial Equity to tackle policies on health, workforce development and opportunities for all. Mayor Sarno held a virtual roundtable discussion after social unrest involving the death of George Floyd during an arrest by the Minneapolis police, which included community stakeholders, faith-based leaders and community groups. The Mayor submitted an Ordinance to the City Council that codifies and strengthens the authority of the Community Police Hearing Board by giving the body subpoena powers. The CPHB was created by Mayoral Executive Order based on recommendation by experts in the field of Criminal Justice, to play an advisory role on police disciplinary cases. Most recently, the Mayor engaged the services of former Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice and Springfield native Roderick Ireland to provide advice concerning the police reforms.
“The City has been willing, and remains willing, to continue such actions and to cooperate with DOJ to fulfill our goals for a better police department for all residents. Part of the CPHB’s role under the Executive Order as well as the pending Ordinance is community outreach as well as advisory responsibilities. As we work to create the Office of Racial Justice within the City’s Department of Health and Human Services and cooperate with the DOJ, this CPHB outreach hearing and series of hearing to follow in a more structured format, is the next logical step in the process. As the details of sustainable police reforms become more concrete with the interactions between the City’s team and the DOJ, more structured dialogues between police officers and community members and groups can occur on specific topics to help build in community trust, transparency and accountability.”