Springfield police board keeps reinstatement in place for 2 convicted officers
Two Springfield police officers convicted of an off-duty assault remain on the job after the Springfield Board of Police Commissioners did not overturn their respective reinstatements.
Officers Daniel Billingsley and Christian Cicero were prosecuted in connection with a 2015 brawl outside of Nathan Bill's bar. After being suspended without pay for several years, the board voted to reinstate the pair in November with two of the five members of the commission missing. The decision drew criticism, including from Mayor Domenic Sarno.
On Thursday, commissioners discussed having another vote with the entire panel present. But it decided only those there for the original hearing could participate and the controversial decision was upheld.
Springfield City Solicitor John Payne said the law department is researching what to do next, but he expects legal action by the officers if the commission does move to overturn itself.
"And quite frankly, I would not be surprised if eventually this gets resolved through some sort of a judicial decision,” Payne said on Friday.
The police commission was brought back last year after a legal battle between the city council and Sarno, who appointed the members. The panel has struggled to gain traction in the months since it began meeting, and some, including City Council President Jesse Lederman have said part of the problem is the city isn’t giving the board enough in the way of resources.
On Friday, Lederman doubled down on that position.
"They need independent legal counsel, they need administrative staffing, they need access to training for these sorts of civilian organizations overseeing police departments,” he said.
Lederman also reiterated the city council's support of the police commission, and then challenged the mayor.
"It is time for the Sarno administration to come to the table and make clear they are going to allow this law to be enforced and they can do that by providing the necessary resources to the commission."
A spokesperson for Sarno did not return a request seeking reaction to Lederman's comments.
Roldan selected as new chair
Norman Roldan was chosen as the new chair of the Springfield Police Commission by his colleagues on Thursday. He takes over for Gary Berte, who remains on the board. Roldan said he has faith in his fellow commissioners and hopes to move the panel forward.
"We have a great board. I say the board members in there have a specific knowledge of things that have been happening that would help to make decisions the right way,” he said. “I think you'll start seeing changes pretty soon, little-by-little that, are going to be positive."
Roldan said the commission will use standardized rules to make sure meetings are run properly. He wants to look at, procedurally, how police officer discipline cases are reviewed.
As for the reinstatement controversy, Roldan said he couldn’t say much, but said the commission should “follow the law” when it comes to making any decision.