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Regional News

'Now Is A Time For Activism' As Some Politicians Heed Calls For Police Changes

City Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
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Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/21953562@N07
City Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.

This week, police brutality protests continued across western Massachusetts, in response to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. In Springfield, the city council is calling for changes to the police department's use of force policy.

Councilor Orlando Ramos said the current policy is too vague.

"We want to make sure that there's no ambiguity, that there is no semantics, that is very clear and precise, that we are banning all choke holds and carotid restraints," Ramos said.

The Springfield police commissioner has agreed to use "stronger language" in the policy.

"I always get kind of leery when politicians start setting tactical policy for police departments," panelist Chris Collins said. "However, I fully understand that this is a situation where you've got a lot of feeling in the community and people want change. And this is an opportunity, quite frankly, for the city council to push policy in the direction they want it to go."

Meanwhile, a group of councilors, including president Justin Hurst, renewed calls that the mayor establish a civilian police commission, and pull five officers indicted for perjury off of the job until their cases are resolved. The city council and mayor's office have strongly disagreed for some time over the police commission, as panelist Carrie Saldo pointed out.

"But I think now is a time for activism," Saldo said. "We have protesters standing up across our region, across our country, and I think city councilors are wise to be raising their voices on this."

And on Friday – the ACLU announced it was suing the Springfield police looking for racial and ethnic data about officers’ interactions with residents. The group said the city has resisted public records requests.

Springfield Roman Catholic Bishop Mitchell Rozanski was named this week Archbishop of St. Louis and will leave western Massachusetts after about six years.

Rozanski has been criticized by survivors and even some prosecutors over not being transparent enough in handling clergy sexual abuse claims. Asked about that in St. Louis, Rozanski pointed to some recent steps he’s taken, including an agreement with district attorneys.

"Healing begins with transparency," Rozanski said. "I know that we can't seem to do things perfectly, but we're trying as best we can to be as transparent, as proactive as we can."

Meanwhile, Massachusetts transportation officials dramatically revised ridership estimates for a proposed increase in rail service from the western part of the state to Boston. Consultants said the route could draw thousands upon thousands more riders than first predicted. 

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