City Pays To Settle Lawsuits By Alleged Police Beating Victims
The City Council in Springfield, Massachusetts voted Monday to pay $1.1 million to settle pending lawsuits, with most of the money going to resolve complaints of police misconduct.
The city of Springfield agreed to pay $750,000 to Herman Paul Cumby, a 50-year old city man, who alleged he was beaten up by off-duty police officers outside a bar in 2015 and that the police department took steps to thwart criminal prosecution and internal discipline of the officers.
A separate lawsuit brought by three people who were with Cumby during the altercation was settled for $135,000.
Springfield City Council President Orlando Ramos said the settlement was in the best interests of the city and its taxpayers.
Mayor Domenic Sarno said in a statement the city is still pursuing disciplinary action against officers who have been implicated in the incident.
City Councilor Justin Hurst, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the allegations contained in Cumby’s federal civil rights lawsuit made his stomach turn.
" The idea these individuals were beaten to the point where we felt the need settle is deeply disappointing and if I could have ensured that they received more, I would have," said Hurst.
Cumby, a lawn sprinkler installer, sustained a broken leg, a dislocated ankle, and several broken teeth, according to his attorney Michele Cruz, who said he also suffers from PTSD.
" He has been unable to work for three-and-a-half years and unable to move forward with his life," said Cruz. "By this own words, his life was destroyed that night."
The suit charged that Springfield police investigators stonewalled Cumby by asking him to identify his attackers from an array of more than 2,600 photographs.
" Our position is they worked very hard to not bring forth the identity of these individuals," said Cruz.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni in 2017 declined to prosecute anyone in the case because he said the assailants could not be positively identified.
Cruz said the state attorney general’s office is conducting an investigation.
"We are also hoping there are some sweeping changes in the way that department is run and there is more monitoring, training, and supervision of officers so that nobody else has to be the victim of police brutality," Cruz said.
City Councilor Jesse Lederman said in the three-and-a-half years since Cumby and his friends were assaulted, there have been changes in the Springfield Police Department.
" Not at all looking to make excuses for what occurred which I am very deeply concerned about, but we are working to take steps to change the culture and make sure it does not happen again," said Lederman. He noted the council earlier this year approved a new contract with the patrolmans union that requires body-worn cameras.
The city has paid out $5 million, either in settlements or judgements, in police misconduct cases since 2006,
Councilors voted Monday to settle for $75,000 a lawsuit brought by the family of a man who had a fatal aneurysm while in a police holding cell.
The family of a 5-year old boy who suffered brain damage when he nearly drowned in a swimming pool during a city-run recreation program in the summer of 2017 will be paid $175,000 to settle a lawsuit.