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Consent decree would guarantee resources for Springfield's police commission, but details TBD

U.S. Department of Justice officials joined with Springfield, Massachusetts, to announce a proposed consent decree for the city's police department on April 13, 2022. From left: Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke and Springfield Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood.
Karen Brown
/
NEPM
U.S. Department of Justice officials joined with Springfield, Massachusetts, to announce a proposed consent decree for the city's police department. From left: Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke and Springfield Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood.

A tentative consent decree between Springfield and the federal government over police reform includes several requirements concerning the city's new police commission.

The city must provide a budget, staffing and training. But it remains to be seen how much that will cost.

During a press conference Wednesday announcing the agreement, Mayor Domenic Sarno made a broad statement about the finances of the deal.

"My administration, financial, has made the commitment to make sure that these continued initiatives and reforms going forward," Sarno said. "So we've made the financial commitment to make sure that the police department moves forward in a positive light."

Given other recent expenditures, City Councilor Justin Hurst said he hopes the Sarno administration will follow through.

"I've been watching a lot of money go out the window lately," Hurst said. "We just gave $6.5 million to a few rich developers to enhance a building in downtown Springfield. If you're telling me we can't invest the same amount of money in our police department and our police commission to make sure they are functioning properly, then we have a problem."

Sarno previously fought the creation of the police commission, refusing to implement an ordinance passed by the City Council. But after the state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled against him in February, Sarno appointed members to the commission.

The city budget process is ongoing and a final spending plan is due at the end of June.

As for the proposed consent decree, Hurst said he was "excited" by it and hoped it was a step forward for the police department.

Hurst's colleague on the City Council, Tracye Whitfield, agreed. The chair of the council's public safety committee, Whitfield had been among those calling for the decree.

"I'm just excited to see what the police department will implement and the administration will implement, and see that the changes are recorded and there will be some transparency around the process," Whitfield said.

State Rep. Bud Williams of Springfield said the proposal is a good first step, two years after a federal investigation found excessive use of force by members of the now-disbanded narcotics unit.

But Williams said the agreement’s effectiveness will come down to the federal court that must approve the decree.

"They can add, subtract, take away, kick it out, ask for a hearing," Williams said. "And usually when both parties agree, it's a slam dunk. But we have to wait and see to what the federal judge has to say".

NEPM's Karen Brown contributed to this report.

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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