© 2024 New England Public Media

FCC public inspection files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact hello@nepm.org or call 413-781-2801.
PBS, NPR and local perspective for western Mass.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Facing age limit, new Springfield police boss will need City Council, state Legislature approval

Springfield, Massachusetts, Police Superintendent Lawrence Akers (left), with Mayor Domenic Sarno, on Jan. 15, 2024, at the city's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.
Jill Kaufman
Springfield, Massachusetts, Police Superintendent Lawrence Akers (left), with Mayor Domenic Sarno, on Jan. 15, 2024, at the city's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Lawrence Akers, the newly appointed police superintendent in Springfield, will need help from the state legislature to serve beyond the mandatory retirement age for police.

Akers is 64 and police in Massachusetts are usually required to retire at age 65. To get an exemption, the city council and state lawmakers will have to approve what's known as a "home rule petition."

State Rep. Bud Williams, D- Springfield, said he will work to usher any such legislation through the state house. He says Akers' age shouldn't matter.

"What we want to do is put the right person at this time, in position to help foster and build the police/community relationship, that's what I'm interested in," Williams said. "Take some of this negativity out of the air."

And other state legislators from Springfield have indicated they would support the effort, including state Sen. Jake Oliveira, D- Ludlow, whose district includes parts of Springfield. He said that home rule petitions generally make it through the legislature without much trouble.

"Home rule petitions, especially when they have the support of the community moving forward, they're not a heavy lift. They usually never need to be roll-called, they can be passed in informal sessions," he said.

Akers is a 38-year veteran of the Springfield Police and currently holds the rank of deputy chief. He's poised to become the first Black superintendent of the department.

His promotion was announced during a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ceremony on Monday. He will replace the retiring Cheryl Clapprood.

On Wednesday, some Springfield community leaders are attending a status hearing in federal court to get updates on how well the city’s police department is complying with a consent decree. This comes days after Akers promotion was announced.

Tara Parrish, the executive director of the Pioneer Valley Project, calls Akers an experienced leader in the police department, with a lot of work to do.

“There are still very serious concerns around how community can trust that this administration is genuinely committed to reform in our police department,” Parrish said. “Reform that really considers and centers the past harm that has been done in order to turn over a new chapter of policing in this city.”

Some of the reforms required by the consent decree focus on officer’s use of force and improving how police investigate internal misconduct.

“We're really hopeful that this will turn a new page on policing in our city that we can expect a fair and equitable system of policing going forward,” Parrish said.

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.
Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
Related Content