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Police Detective Who Threatened To Kill Teens And Plant Drug Evidence, Is Suspended, Not Fired

         A narcotics detective in Springfield, Massachusetts has been suspended, but not fired, after he threatened to kill and plant drug evidence on two teenagers who had stolen an unmarked police car. His actions have jeopardized a number of drug cases.

        The officer, Detective Gregg Bigda, was suspended by Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri for 60 days following an internal affairs investigation of an incident in February where Bigda interrogated two teenagers, who along with a third youth, were suspected of stealing an undercover police car that had been left idling outside a pizza shop.

  A video of the interrogation, during which Bigda reportedly threatened to crush the skull of one of the teens and  plant a kilo of cocaine in his pocket, was provided to defense attorneys who are now using it to impeach Bigda’s credibility in pending drug cases.

  Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he supports the commissioner’s decision to suspend Bigda because of the likelihood firing him would not survive a civil service appeal and the city would be ordered to rehire the cop with back pay.

" I am not happy about it. This is what was recommended," Sarno said. " It is a most severe suspension of 60 working days without pay and retraining."

  Barbieri told The Republican newspaper that Bigda will be reassigned to uniform duty on a day shift when his suspension ends.

  Springfield City Councilor Justin Hurst, joined by four of his colleagues at a news conference, complained the punishment given Bigda is too lenient.

  " I think we have to ask when it comes to this case, at what point, at what standard is there when the commissioner feels a cop shold be terminated," asked Hurst?

  The incident involving the teens and the stolen police car remains under investigation by the Hampden District Attorney and the video of the interrogation, which occurred at the Palmer Police Department, has not been made public because a judge ordered it sealed to protect the identities of the juveniles.

Sarno has requested a review by attorneys for the city and the prosecutor’s office to determine if any part of the video and other information in the Bigda case can be made public in the interest of transparency and accountability.

" We have to protect the integrity, professionalism, and brave efforts of our police department and in turn make sure our residents have complete confidence in our police department," said Sarno.

The stolen police car was recovered and the juveniles arrested outside the city. A report filed by a Wilbraham police officer said a Springfield Police Officer kicked one of the teens in the face while he was on the ground and in handcuffs.  The report did not name the officer.

Springfield Police Det. Steven Vigneault, who reported the cruiser stolen, recently resigned from the force, according to The Republican.

Already, charges in two cases in which Bigda was a potential prosecution witness have been dismissed. Also, an alleged heroin dealer, who was facing a 10-30 year prison sentence if convicted, was allowed by prosecutors to plead as a first-time offender, and was released after spending three years in jail awaiting trial.

City Councilor Adam Gomez said Bigda’s actions have harmed efforts to get drugs off the city’s streets.

" It is a public safety issue with the opioid crisis and now some of these big dealers are going to be coming back to our communities," said Gomez.  " We spend a lot of money trying to lock these people up and  now look at what we are going to do."

City Council Vice-president Orlando Ramos renewed his call for Springfield police officers to wear body cameras.

" If there was a not a camera there  this incident would never have been caught. So, the question is what other incidents are there that are not being caught on camera," he said.

 City officials have said the issue of police wearing body cameras is a topic for collective bargaining with the patrolmen’s union.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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