Springfield Police Academy graduates 30 new officers
The latest class from the Springfield Police Academy graduated Thursday. The new officers are sorely needed to help bolster the department's ranks.
Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood said her department has 30 unfilled positions and has several officers out due to on-the-job injuries or on sick leave. She had hoped this latest class would have 50 graduates, but it ended up with only half of that, which continues a trend of fewer people wanting to become police officers.
As for staffing levels, Clapprood said “it's just enough where I'm meeting the bare minimums but I'm not able to do those extra little things like more traffic enforcement, more C-3 (community policing), things that I'd really like to do," she said.
At a time where trust in policing, in Springfield and elsewhere, is down, graduate Nathaniel Murchinson said he wants to work to change that.
"Basically, interact with our community, help our community, being transparent is very important when it comes to our community understanding what we are doing, how we are progressing," he said.
As for his career choice, Murchinson said, “In today's day and age, it's a rough climate for all of us, but to be able to make a change and in impact in... the community is really what drove me to become a police officer."
Clapprood said the new graduates will be on the job quickly, working with veteran officers, before going out on their own in three months.
Thursday’s graduation ceremony was held at Springfield College’s Blake Arena and was attended by a few hundred, including family members of the graduates, city officials and other dignitaries. The event was full of pomp and circumstance, including bagpipers, a police color guard and the graduates entering the arena in a precise fashion.
One-by-one the graduates were called up on stage to have their new badge pinned to their dress uniforms. Clapprood did the honors for many of them, but some graduates had family members who are police officers in Springfield and elsewhere, or are retired officers, put on their shields.
During speeches given prior to the pinning ceremony, both Clapprood and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said one of the major challenges the new officers will have to face is dealing with repeat offenders. Both Sarno and Clapprood have been vocal about their assertions some judges are releasing people who have committed crimes in the past and were arrested again with too few consequences, only to have them reoffend, sometimes violently.
The police academy graduating class totaled 30, which also included four officers going to the Springfield College department and one slated to work for the Longmeadow Police.