In A 'No-Win Situation,' Springfield Police Commissioner Clapprood 'Has To Start Listening'
This week, a group of seniors gathered in downtown Springfield t0 renew their call for Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood to be removed from her job.
The Massachusetts Senior Action Council said Clapprood dismissed their concerns and experiences with racism in the police department.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he has no plans to fire Clapprood. The commissioner has more recently acknowledged systemic racism in the criminal justice system, but also said she stands behind her officers.
Panelist Ron Chimelis said he does not think the mayor should fire Clapprood.
"Domenic Sarno says he's working with Clapprood on sensitivity issues," Chimelis said. "I wasn't aware that the mayor of Springfield was known as a 'Dr. Phil' when it came to sensitivity in government. But I wouldn't fire her."
But Chimelis said he thinks Clapprood is "on the wrong side of this."
"If so many people feel there's a problem, there's a problem, whether she sees it that way or not," he said. "But I don't think you solve a communication problem by the first time, when you have a disagreement, saying 'You're out.' I think she has to start listening, and I think they have to let her. And I think she should be given the chance. If she continues to insist that there's no problem — she's blind to the fact that many people are bothered by this — then you have to look at a different type of action."
The City Council recently won a legal decision that would force Sarno to bring back a five-member police commission to run the department, instead of just Clapprood. The mayor is appealing the decision.
Given what's been going on in court, panelist Chris Collins said he thinks Sarno's support of Clapprood is both about backing her and looking out for his own power.
"When you look at Clapprood's situation, there's two issues here," Collins said. "One is exactly what Ron said: The public feels that there's a problem, and that's a problem for the department. But think about it, putting yourself in her shoes for a second. If she comes in, and agrees, and says, 'Yeah, we've got racists in our department,' what does that do for her ability to maintain her position? So she's in a no-win situation as it is."
Collins said there needs to be more public involvement, just like in every police department.
"Whether or not it needs to be a commission or not, that's above my pay grade," he said. "I think that the mayor, though, did the right thing by backing his police chief in this particular case."
Chimelis said he thinks Clapprood is "more comfortable with police work than with public relations."
"She has to work a little bit harder, I think, on relating to people more or less on their terms," he said. "But that doesn't mean I think she should be fired."
"I think that that's true for every police chief I've ever encountered in my career," Collins said. "They're much more focused on doing the work than they are about the public aspect of it. And that, I think, is something that's got to change if any of these reforms are going to happen."
We move along to a question of residency for one Massachusetts state senator. Adam Hinds has a sprawling district that touches all four western counties of the state. But according to The Berkshire Eagle, he and his wife recently purchased a nearly $700,000 home in Amherst, outside his district.
Hinds said he still plans to live primarily in Pittsfield — and his new home is closer to his wife's new job, and to the Statehouse. Current state law says a senator only has to live in the area they represent at the time they are elected.
Staying in Berkshire County, District Attorney Andrea Harrington tried to have a district court judge removed. The Berkshire Eagle reported the DA claimed Judge Jennifer Tyne posed a significant threat to public safety by making "dangerous rulings." The complaint appears centered around Tyne refusing to revoke a defendant's bail. But the chief judge summarily dismissed Harrington's complaint.
We wrap up this week with a look toward summer. COVID-19 restrictions have mostly been lifted in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Positivity rates continue to fall, and the weather has certainly had a summer-like feel. As we saw on Memorial Day weekend, people are traveling again — but not necessarily our panelists.
- Ron Chimelis, reporter and columnist, Springfield Republican
- Chris Collins, contributing editor, Franklin County Now
NEPR's Heather Brandon contributed to this post.