Springfield police, clergy begin dialogue on collaboration
Council of Churches once made formal racism complaint against Springfield Police Dept
Cops and clergy in Springfield, Massachusetts have pledged to collaborate on making neighborhoods safer and policing more just.
After an hour-long roundtable in the sanctuary of Christian Cathedral Friday with Springfield Police Department brass and a dozen members of the Greater Springfield Council of Churches, Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood and Council President Archbishop Timothy Paul declared it the beginning of a partnership.
“We forgive the past whatever it has been, and I know it has been difficult, and now we are ready to move forward to a brand new future together with the help of God,” Archbishop Paul said.
“As are we.” Clapprood replied.
More talks will take place in the coming weeks on how to achieve the mutual objectives of the Springfield police and the leaders of the faith-based community.
There is a fraught history between the Springfield Police Department and the Council of Churches. Almost two decades ago, the Council pursued a case against the police department with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination that was resolved by the creation of the city’s first Community Police Hearing Board.
That is all in the past, said Paul.
“People of faith believe in forgiveness,” he said. “If we don’t forgive, how can we teach others to forgive?”
“The past is the past,” Clapprood said.
The Springfield Police Department is obligated by a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice to make reforms. Changes are being required in use-of-force policies and in procedures for investigating complaints against officers and meting out discipline.
“What we want to do after their findings and agreements are done is to take the dialogue a step further to talk about how we can implement the changes so our community can see what is taking place,” Paul said.
The 500-member police force in Springfield is young, said Clapprood, and they can use the moral support of the clergy.
“They’ve taken on a profession that some people continue to demean,” Clapprood said. “They need help and they need support. So, what better partners than faith-based partners to help with that problem.”
The first tangible product of the partnership is a food drive that will take place over the weekend in five houses of worship. The police will collect the donated non-perishable food for later distribution to the needy.
“Everybody is going through a real tough time now, so I thought what better way than to team up with our faith partners with food drives to start,” Clapprood explained.
Many police departments across the country are participating in National Faith and Blue Weekend Oct 7-9th. It is a national campaign started in 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia to bring faith communities and law enforcement together to build bridges and break biases