Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and City Solicitor Attorney Edward Pikula, upon the request from City Councilor Tracye Whitfield, today provided the City Council with an update on the changes and reforms that have been made to date with the Springfield Police Department (SPD).
These reforms are ongoing and in conjunction with the Mayor’s, Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood, and retired Judge Roderick Ireland series of public forums, as the City of Springfield continues a respectful dialogue with key community stakeholders on meaningful police community relations and reforms.
The reforms to date are described in the City Solicitor’s letter to Councilor Whitfield.
The reforms, in part, to date include:
- Enhance reporting and review procedures
- The procurement of a new system is ongoing to purchase a new Records/Information Management System (“RMS” or “IMS”). The new system will alleviate many reporting issues discussed in the Department of Justice (DOJ) report and recommendations.
- Utilization of body worn cameras with the SPD will all the department to implement an efficient means of reporting and review that most other departments in the Commonwealth do not have.
- Adopting a new use of force training
- SPD has upgraded the communications provided during recruit training as well as completing in-service training to strictly regulate any use of a chokehold or any use of force while restraining subjects when striking parts of the body that may cause serious injury. The new Reform Legislation pending in the State Legislature, as well as regulations that will be adopted, will have further impact on this issue. Attorney General Healy recently expressed her concerns about the language. SPD eagerly awaits any reform measures in the final bill these will be implemented accordingly.
- The police academy is now utilized in the case review process with regard to the use of force. When a question of use of force is at issue in a case review, it is required that academy staff review the matter to apply their expertise and provide opinions as to the appropriateness of the use of force based on the applicable training standards for the use of force to be applied under the circumstances.
- Review and Revise IIU Policies and Training
- SPD has initiated efforts to implement new IIU new policies, procedures, and training to ensure that civilian complaints are properly taken, and that IIU officers use proper interviewing and investigative techniques in order to conduct meaningful investigations in conjunction with the Police Executive Research Forum (“PERF”) report issued in April 2019.
- Increase Accountability Mechanisms
- SPD is in the process of adopting policies and procedures so that officer discipline is meaningful, consistent, and appropriate and is also working to address the fact that administrative charges can be dismissed due to timeliness issues.
In addition, the two PERF Assessment reports on SPD for Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission (MPAC) Certification (April 2020) and the SPD Internal Investigation Processes (April 2019) can be found on the City of Springfield’s website.
Overall, accountability has greatly increased with the implementation of body worn cameras. SPD is the largest department in the state that has gone to body worn camera use by all uniform officers and we included plainclothes officers in the policy, including narcotics officers, when feasible. The City has created a unit to manage the body worn camera footage and has hire an attorney dedicated to this issue.
SPD is providing training in connection with any policy changes or updates that are implemented within the agency. These trainings are done through roll calls, informal briefings, and regularly scheduled in-service training sessions.
With the assistance of PERF, the SPD is currently in the position of documenting and centralizing agency compliance with MPAC standards. Completing Certification will fulfill the DOJ remedies. The DOJ Report states, among other things, “[w]e are encouraged by the SPD’s… initial efforts to address reform” and the SPD continues on an upward trajectory with its efforts and draft policies.
On Saturday, December 19, 2020 Mayor Sarno will join with Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood, City Solicitor Attorney Ed Pikula, Health Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris, Retired State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Attorney Talia Gee, Community Police Hearing Board (CPHB) Members, and Mayoral Aide Lavar Click for the third public forum on police and community relations and reform.
Mayor Sarno thanks and acknowledges City Councilors Tim Allen, Malo Brown, Melvin Edwards and Attorney Michael Fenton who came out and stated their support in the Mayors continued dialogue with these public forums and the importance of policing and police reform (see attached for Councilors press release).
Mayor Sarno states, “I want to thank Councilors Allen, Brown, Edwards, and Fenton for their support in joining with me, Commissioner Clapprood and our dedicated team as we continue to work together and have meaningful and respectful dialogue to make systemic change for the betterment of everyone.”
Speaking on the upcoming public forum, Mayor Sarno stated, “These ongoing sessions will continue discussion and will allow key stakeholders within our diverse community input on enhancing police/community relations. Commissioner Clapprood and I have implemented a number of new reform initiatives from body worn cameras being worn by all police officers, including the revamped Narcotics Division; creating the Office of Racial Equity with our new Coordinator Chrismery Gonzalez under Health and Human Services (HHS) Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris; having mental health workers (Behavior Health Network) on the street to assist our police officers; having under our Health and Human Services Department street gang outreach workers (Mission Inc. – Brother Johnnie Muhammad) to intervene, defuse and mediate street gang violence.”
“In addition, my administration has sponsored measures to give our Civilian Community Police Hearing Board (CPHB) subpoena powers, and extending the timeframe for a police complaint to be reviewed from 90 days to 120 days – these two initiatives and reforms are currently pending before the City Council for their approval,” said Mayor Sarno. “We have also continued to work collaboratively with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and with retired Chief State Supreme Court Justice and Springfield native Roderick Ireland. His continued advice, wisdom and guidance have been invaluable to me. There is more work to be done. We are looking forward to again hearing from our community members and organizations – any and all are welcomed.”
Those wishing to participate can register as attendees at the following link: focusspringfield.com/police-forum-dec20
Once the registration is completed, a link will be automatically sent to the email address the user entered to attend the ‘webinar’.
In addition, the program can be viewed on Channel 17 on Springfield’s Comcast Cable Channel and online at http://focusspringfield.com/watch/government. The program will also be livestreamed on the City of Springfield’s Office of Communications Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CityofSpringfieldMA