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The Feds Recommended Change For Springfield Police. 'Where Is It?'

Police cruisers in Springfield, Massachusetts.
File photo
The Republican / masslive.com
Police cruisers in Springfield, Massachusetts.

This week, a group of Springfield, Massachusetts, city councilors continued their calls to reform the city's police department. 

In a letter, the councilors asked the U.S. Department of Justice for a consent decree that would require the city to enforce reforms in its police department.

The feds last year issued a blistering report accusing narcotics officers of a pattern of excessive force and misconduct, and made recommendations on how to remedy the problem.

Some advocacy groups are pushing for the same thing. Mayor Domenic Sarno and Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood have defended their handling of the situation.

There's also a pending lawsuit between the City Council and mayor over reestablishing a police commission.

Panelist Matt Szafranski said the initiatives — a request for a consent decree that could force reforms, and a lawsuit over who has the authority over the police — are "kind of on separate tracks."

"As far as the Department of Justice is concerned, whether there's a police commissioner or not is not really anything to do with the kind of reforms and changes that they're looking at," Szafranski said. "However, for a lot of people in the community, the police commission is an essential part of some of the reforms that they see as necessary. And I believe some of the activists that were calling for the consent decree between the Springfield Police Department and the U.S. Justice Department also were supporters of the commission."

Panelist Larry Parnass said he supports the call for a consent decree.

"That seems very fair and reasonable," Parnass said. "I mean, you said 'blistering report' — that hardly captures it. There was excessive force here. And it's really hard to see how officials in 2021 can really seem to be slow-walking police reform on that issue. So the Department of Justice is the final arbiter of civil rights issues. They recommended change. Where is it?"

Also this week, there was word thousands of convicted drunk driving cases in Massachusetts could be re-tried. The state's highest court found certain breathalyzer test results, over an eight year period, to be unreliable. The Berkshire Eagle reported the Berkshire DA's office is sending out 900 letters to defendants. They say they'll look to dismiss cases that are based solely on the breathalyzer evidence, and will move for new trials for the others.

Meanwhile, more than 80 Massachusetts state lawmakers pushed the Baker administration this week over plans for a new Holyoke Soldiers' Home. One recommendation calls for 40 fewer beds than the home has now for a proposed new facility. Legislators are looking to get more input on the project. A deadly COVID-19 outbreak last year led to the deaths of at least 76 veterans, and prompted several investigations.

One state senator, John Velis of Westfield, said it's hard see fewer beds being needed at the facility.

And finally this week, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said 120,000 new appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations for next weekwill be made available. That's as the administration has faced criticism for how it has rolled out its vaccine program. Baker acknowledged there's still more that needs to be done.


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Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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