Springfield Board of Police Commissioners hopes to 'build trust' with community
The newly formed Springfield Board of Police Commissioners held its first meeting Monday night at City Hall.
The organizational meeting included a vote to make Gary Berte, a professor of criminal justice at Springfield College, chair, for one year.
Berte said one goal of the board is to work on building trust with the community.
"It's been 18 years since the city has had a police commission and times have changed," he said. "We have a lot more authority to direct an investigation, we have subpoena powers now...and we can compel police officers to come in and testify."
Member Madeline Fernandez said community trust will come from meeting residents on their own terms.
"It's important that we are not just hiding behind a table here, that we need to be out in the community and let people know that here is a board that really cares and wants to make a difference," Fernandez said. "I'm looking forward to earning that trust again."
Berte said the new board has more authority and can make a determination without approval from anyone else.
"We have a lot of training to go through, a lot of documents to review, a lot of deliberation and a lot of time to reflect," he said. "We need an opportunity to hear from the citizens as well as the city's police officers."
The five-member board also voted to hold a meeting every second Wednesday of the month in different neighborhoods throughout Springfield.