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Springfield police union agrees to reforms called for by DOJ

Springfield Police Department Headquarters on Pearl Street
Paul Tuthill
The city of Springfield, MA and the U.S. Dept. of Justice entered a consent decree in 2022 almost two years after a report by federal investigators said members of the Springfield Police Department's former narcotics unit had repeatedly, and unconstitutionally, used excessive force.

New four-year deal gives 400 patrol officers 15 percent pay hikes

A collective bargaining agreement has been sealed that will allow the city of Springfield, Massachusetts to move forward on police reforms.

The City Council unanimously approved a new contract with the union representing about 400 Springfield Police patrol officers. It is a lengthy agreement that includes new policies and procedures for training and discipline as called for in the consent decree entered into last year between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“There’ve been some significant changes to make sure we are in compliance with that DOJ settlement agreement,” said William Mahoney, the city’s Director of Human Resources and Labor Relations.

Among the significant changes is the length of time the city has to bring a formal discipline charge against a patrol officer increases from 90 days to 120 days. The city can video and audio record all use-of-force field investigations, interviews conducted by the Internal Investigations Unit, and disciplinary hearings conducted by the Board of Police Commissioners.

There is a discipline matrix that aims to bring consistency and predictability in punishing officers for wrongdoing similar to judicial sentencing guidelines. It is modeled, Mahoney said, after the range of discipline options used by the Baltimore Police Department, which is also operating under a federal consent decree.

The contract will allow the police department to set up a field officer training program. It allows some tweaks in the body-worn camera policy and officers will for the first time be required to wear nametags on their uniforms.

Members of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local-364 voted last month to ratify the proposed contract, Mahoney told Councilors at their Monday night meeting.

It is a four-year agreement retroactive to July 1st, 2020 that will raise the officers’ salaries by a total of 15 percent.

City Councilor Mike Fenton said the cops are deserving of the increase.

“I think it is fair and consistent with the added expectations we’ve put on a lot of our brave men and women over the course of the past few years,” he said.

Getting the police unions on board with the reforms demanded by the consent decree is a major step, said City Councilor Justin Hurst.

“It is time for us to move forward,” Hurst said. He said the contract is a step toward Springfield having “the best police department that we all know we can have.”

The city is still in contract negotiations with the union that represents roughly 100 supervisors in the Springfield Police Department – officers with the rank of sergeant and higher.

Councilors Monday night voted to ratify two other labor contracts – one covering 10 civil engineers in the Department of Public Works and the second for 39 City Library employees. Each are four-year agreements.

Their pay raises are on the order of 2 percent a-year.

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.