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Springfield Is Hiring Retired Police Officers To Direct Traffic At Construction Sites

For the first time, a city in western Massachusetts will deploy special police officers. It is a unique public safety plan that required a special act of the state legislature and the approval of the governor.              

Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri Wednesday announced the appointments of 17 Special Police Officers to the Springfield Police Department.   They will work extra-duty details – such as directing traffic at road construction sites – when fulltime officers turn down the overtime assignments.

The Special Police Officers are former Springfield Police Officers who retired within the last five years.  Each had at least 30 years of experience as a police officer and good service records, according to Barbieri. All volunteered to come out of retirement.

" It is like an anti-retirement party," Barbieri joked as he announced the appointments. He said he was "proud" to have the retired officers return to work.

Demand is so high for police officers to work assignments that some jobs have gone unfilled.

"It is unusual for a city to have a need greater than the number of sworn officers it has," said Barbieri.  "It is a proud moment for the city that we have reached a point where construction is at a level and private-vendor jobs are at level that we can't fill them.  The thought process is what better way to fill them than with experienced police officers."

This is not an auxiliary police force, which typically consists of civilian volunteers with little training. The Special Police Officers will wear uniforms and a badge, carry a gun, and have the power to arrest people.

" They are certainly already familier with Springfield and familier with  the Springfield Police Department," said Barbieri. "They understand the rules and regulations.  It is just a win for us. We are getting back a reliable solid person to serve the citizens of the city."

Mark Rolland retired in January as a lieutenant after an almost 39-year career with the Springfield Police Department, and now he’s come back as a Special Police Officer.

"I started ( with the Springfield Dept) when I was 18-years old. I am 58 now.  It has been a long career. I enjoyed it and I am very happy to come back," he said.

The unions that represent patrol officers and supervisors in the Springfield Police Department agreed to the plan to have Special Police Officers.   The extra-duty assignments are offered first to patrol officers and then to supervisors before the retirees are used.

Police are paid $51.04 per hour for overtime assignments. Contractors and utility companies pay for the officers, not taxpayers.

Legislation authorizing special police officers in Springfield passed the House and Senate and was signed last month by Gov. Charlie Baker.

State Rep. Angelo Puppolo of Springfield, who sponsored the bill, said it is specific to Springfield.

"Two or three other cities have done it," said Puppolo.  " We look at it on a case-by-case basis. The Speaker ( Robert DeLeo) was very supportive and I am glad the local delegation worked together to get it done."

Unlike other states, there is not wide use of civilian flaggers at highway construction sites in Massachusetts. It has been long opposed by police unions.

To use a civilian to direct traffic at a construction site in Springfield, the contractor is required to have a special public safety plan approved by the police department.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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