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Sarno To Appeal, But 'Good Decision' To Allow Springfield Police Commission To Go Forward

Springfield, Massachusetts, Mayor Domenic Sarno in a file photo. Behind him stands Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.
Adam Frenier
/
NEPR
Springfield, Massachusetts, Mayor Domenic Sarno in a file photo. Behind him stands Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.

A Massachusetts superior court judge has largely sided with the Springfield City Council in its lawsuit against Mayor Domenic Sarno over a 2018 ordinance seeking to establish a police commission.

The judge ordered the mayor to appoint members "without delay" to the panel that would oversee the city's police department. This comes after Sarno had ignored the ordinance, saying it violated Springfield's charter. 

"My hope is that when you spread out the decision-making powers, that you'll have more people who are conscientious of the impacts of those decisions on the residents of this city," said City Councilor Justin Hurst in reaction to the ruling.

Panelist Natalia Muñoz said it was a "good decision by the judge" to allow the establishment of a civilian police commission to go forward, for the benefit of anyone who is arrested or interacts with the police department.

"I'm not sure how seriously the Springfield Police Department takes complaints," Muñoz said. "Maybe they do. But the history that I know of the Springfield Police Department is that there are quite a few police officers who have been trouble police officers, and have made life horrible especially for people of color in Springfield. I don't know why Mayor Sarno is resisting this call to make things better for the city he loves so much." 

Sarno has indicated he plans to appeal the decision. And he said the issue of police governance goes further than the question of his authority, or that of the City Council.

"What it involves — and of course, what must be addressed," Sarno said earlier in the week, "is the interest that all of us want in a very effective, highly professional and properly accountable police department."

Panelist Dave Eisenstadter said the judge's decision was a good one, and Sarno should abide by it.

"We're seeing a basically never-ending stream of videos that show often lethal police misconduct around the country," Eisenstadter said. "And the message from these videos is very simple. You can't let police departments police themselves."

Eisenstadter said Springfield's police department has been shown, including in a U.S. Department of Justice report, to have used excessive force.

"One officer who told a youth of color, 'Welcome to the white man's world,' after kicking him in the head," he said. "I think this week's verdict in the Derek Chauvin case takes us as a country one step closer to where we need to be on police accountability. But I think it's going to take more cooperation by those in power, including Sarno, to get us there."

Meanwhile, in Hartford, the city is spending $30,000 a month to get rid of recyclables that have been contaminated with regular garbage. And, that means, those cardboard boxes or tin cans are getting sent to an incinerator in the city, instead of being re-purposed. Over the last few years, the amount of materials sent to be recycled in Hartford dropped by 75 percent, largely because the plant that does the processing--is rejecting more and more loads.

We move on to Berkshire County, where a Pittsfield City Councilor has run afoul of health and licensing officials--after dancing on the bar at a restaurant she runs. The Berkshire Eagle reports Yuki Cohen was caught on video close together with others standing on the bar, without masks. The health department has shut the restaurant down for violations of COVID-19 rules, and the licensing board will hold a hearing next week. And, this is not the first time Cohen's establishment has been cited for not following pandemic safety protocols.

Guests:

  • Natalia Muñoz, host, Vaya Con Muñoz on WHMP
  • Dave Eisenstadter, veteran western Mass. journalist

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