Seniors Rally To Call For Removal Of Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood
A senior citizen advocacy group in Massachusetts rallied today to amplify their call for the ouster of Springfield’s top cop.
In front of Springfield City Hall, under a hot midday sun, about 40 people chanted, sang, held signs, and listened to speakers call for the removal of Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.
The calls for Clapprood’s ouster stem from an online meeting the police commissioner had with members of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council in April to discuss police reform. During the meeting, and in a follow-up letter to the organization, Clapprood was “defensive and dismissive” about allegations of racial bias within the police department, said Mattie Lacewell, the president of the council’s Springfield chapter.
" Making our neighborhoods safe for all will require new leadership," Lacewell said.
In a statement issued when the senior advocates made their demand known last week, Clapprood said she is a strong and unwavering advocate for the men and women of the Springfield Police Department. She said great strides have been taken to make the agency more modern and progressive.
One of the speakers at the rally was Keisha Walker, whose son Delano Walker Jr. was 15 when he was struck and killed by a passing car in 2009 after he was stopped and questioned by a Springfield Police Officer. She said it upset her that Clapprood in her comments tried to downplay the role police played in her son’s death.
"Do you think his life didn't matter? How dare you," Walker said.
In 2014, the city paid a $1 million settlement to Walker’s family after a federal court jury found his civil rights had been violated by police officer Sean Sullivan. The police department later promoted Sullivan.
"We teach our kids growing up what is wrong and what's right. How come you are not doing the same with Springfield police?" Walker said.
A letter was also delivered to Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno from the Senior Action Council Wednesday calling on him to fire Clapprood, said council member Emurriel Holloway.
"We come here today to call upon Mayor Sarno, who refers to himself as ' the people's mayor', and call on him for the immediate removal of Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood," Holloway said.
Asked for comment, the mayor’s spokesman issued a statement quoting Sarno as saying he had recently had a “productive meeting” with Springfield City Council President Marcus Williams and Clapprood.
“We had a very good and open dialogue on sensitivity issues and we plan to continue this dialogue on a regular basis,” Sarno said.
Also speaking at the rally were City Councilors Trayce Whitfield and Justin Hurst, who has been an outspoken critic of Clapprood.
" I personally stand with Mass Senior Action Council in calling for the resignation of Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood because their fight is my fight," Hurst said.
Other rally participants included the Springfield chapter of the NAACP and the Pioneer Valley Project – two organizations that had previously called for Clapprood’s removal.
The Pioneer Valley Project unfolded a petition it said was signed by 2,000 people expressing “no confidence” in Clapprood.