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Former Narcotics Unit in Springfield, Mass., Under Federal Investigation

The Springfield, Mass., Police Department headquarters.
Unidentified staff photo
Springfield Republican
The Springfield, Mass., Police Department headquarters.

A federal investigation has been opened to review police practices in the former narcotics unit in Springfield, Massachusetts.  

The civil investigation will look at whether the unit engaged in a "pattern or practice" of using excessive force in violation of the Constitution.

When asked for clarification about what prompted the investigation, the police department declined to comment. Neither Mayor Domenic Sarno's office or federal investigators have yet responded.

Sarno and Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri met Friday with Andrew Lelling, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, and Steven Rosenbaum, the Chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

In 2016, a video became public showing a Springfield detective from the former narcotics unit (now part of the department’s Strategic Impact Unit) interrogating two teenagers accused of stealing a police car. One of the detectives, Gregg Bigda, was recorded threatening to kill one of the teens, and to plant drug evidence on the other in order to send him to prison.

Bigda was suspended but never fired. According to Masslive, Bigda remains employed and is one of several patrol officers on the civil service list to be made sergeant.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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