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Community Groups In Springfield Call For Police Commissioner's Removal

Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield NAACP.
Douglas Hook
Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield NAACP.

Two community groups in Springfield, Massachusetts, are renewing calls for the mayor to fire the city police commissioner, following a scathing federal report last summer. 

In a public letter, the NAACP and the Pioneer Valley Project said Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood has failed in her leadership. 

They pointed out that Clapprood reinstated five officers indicted for attacking men of color outside Nathan Bill’s bar.

And she did not fire a school-based officer convicted of assaulting a student, even after the FBI claimed Springfield officers used excessive force with no accountability. 

Pioneer Valley Project director Tara Parrish said neither the commissioner nor Mayor Domenic Sarno has explained exactly what, if anything, has changed.

“Our commissioner makes claims publicly all the time that she's already made several reforms,” Parrish said. “Well, what are they?”

In the letter, the groups called for Clapprood’s removal, as well the reinstatement of a police commission and a list of specific reforms that have been made. They urged the mayor and the commissioner to attend community town halls to talk with residents.

In response, Sarno sent the groups a short email that said they are welcome to express their opinions at city-sponsored public forums. 

Starting next week, Parrish said, the groups are helping to organize several community actions, which could include rallies and demonstrations against police misconduct.

“There are plenty of good, ethical, friendly, effective officers in our police department and in any police department,” Parrish said. “But what we have in Springfield is a culture and a system in our police department that protects bad cops at the expense of good cops, and that does harm in our community to public trust [and] to public safety.”

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.
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