Mayor Domenic J. Sarno announced that the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) has provided an Executive Summary of its review of the Springfield Police Department’s Internal Investigations Processes, Springfield’s Community Police Hearing Board (CPHB) and current operating structure. PERF has recommended maintaining the Police Commissioner position, expanding the CPHB while giving it more oversight and improving the Police Department’s Internal Investigations Unit.
PERF, a nationally recognized expert in the field of police administration, recommended that the Police Department maintain its current leadership structure with a Police Commissioner. PERF expressed its opinion that a five member board of civilians could result in less accountability because no one person could be held responsible for police operations. In review of the CPHB, PERF recommends that the membership be expanded to 9 or 10 members, including at least three experienced as law enforcement investigators, and chaired by a retired judge or respected attorney with trial experience. It also recommend the appointment of a Civilian Oversight Coordinator to be responsible of the day-to-day administration of the CPHB.
PERF’s review compared the Police Department’s Internal Investigations practices to best practices on the national level and found, in large measure, Springfield is in compliance with the Department of Justice’s best practices. However, PERF has made several recommendations to improve the structure of the Department’s Internal Investigations Unit.
The Mayor stated, “Acting Commissioner Clapprood informs me that she has already started implementing many of the recommendations. In addition, she has discussed with me and the Law Department changes to the existing Board she believes will help strengthen its ability to assist by providing civilian oversight. I have asked the Law Department to work with the City Council to create a proposed Ordinance which adopts reforms for consideration by the City Council.”
City Solicitor Edward Pikula stated that the Law Department hopes to have a proposed Ordinance ready for the City Council’s consideration at its April 15th meeting. The PERF recommendations include but are not limited to creating an electronic version of the Department’s complaint form, adopt a system to track complaints and develop an early intervention system to provide the Department with automated alerts about officers who may need counseling, coaching or training. PERF also recommends that the Springfield Police Department establish an inspections unit to routinely audit the complaint investigative process.
PERF does state the Department’s current practice of holding off on administrative investigations until criminal proceedings are completed is good practice, but recommends that in cases where a violation is so egregious that it would likely result in the termination of an officer, the SPD should consider moving forward with the administrative investigation immediately.
“It is clear to me the best way to handle situations where criminal charges may be pending against police officers is with swift and decisive action at the time of an incident. This builds public trust and holds officers accountable for their actions,” said Acting Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.
Another recommendation is that the Supervisors handling the day to day operations of the Internal Investigations Unit report directly to the Commissioner.
In 2018, the Springfield Police Department selected PERF to complete this review in 2018 and it cost $128,900. The entire final report is expected to be available within in the next thirty days.