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Springfield councilors receive update on DOJ agreement, police commission

Springfield Police Department vehicle.
Elizabeth Román
Springfield Police Department vehicle.

The Springfield City Council on Tuesday night held another meeting related to policing. For about an hour, it received updates on how the city’s police department is working to abide by a consent decree with federal authorities. It also heard from the chair of the police commission, who said the panel needs more resources.

Last year, the city and the federal Department of Justice entered into an agreement over policing reform. That was the result of a scathing 2020 report, alleging officers of the former narcotics unit used excessive force against suspects.

Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said her department is making progress in implementing new policies and has created a new unit within the Springfield police to help do so. Clapprood said the department has been keeping up with deadlines to roll out new procedures.

“We’re all onboard with this, we’re all focused on getting this done and doing what’s needed,” Clapprood said. “We have been ahead of every deadline, we have not missed a deadline, the policies they’ve called for they have gotten on time.”

One of the changes involves use of force. Clapprood said a new panel of officers will review anytime force is used by an officer and whether the actions followed departmental policy. She also said the city has invested in new software that would make it easier to track such cases.

As for the police commission, which was reinstituted last year after a legal battle between the city council and Mayor Domenic Sarno, its chair, Norman Roldan renewed a call for more resources. He said the panel still doesn’t have a budget but didn’t offer many specifics about what a spending plan would look like.

“I just don’t want to come today and tell you ‘Yes, I need a budget, this is what I need,’” Roldan said. “I prefer going back and getting the information and coming back. But we don’t have a budget, we need a budget.”

City Solicitor John Payne, who has been the point person in Mayor Sarno’s administration for the commission’s rollout, did not address Roldan’s concerns during the meeting. Councilor Lavar Click-Bruce said he'd work to set up a meeting with the Mayor Domenic Sarno's administration to try to alleviate the situation.

Roldan also said commissioners need cell phones in order to make it easier for the public to reach them, although complaints about alleged police officer misconduct would still need to be submitted to the department first for investigation.

He also told the council the commission continues to work with the department of justice to craft a manual to help guide the panel and frame how it should go about its work.

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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