The abrupt departure of the top cop in Springfield, Massachusetts last month has been followed by new investigations and calls for more reforms in the city’s troubled police department.
With a cloud hanging over the Springfield Police Department as a result of scandals, brutality lawsuits, and a still continuing U.S. Justice Department civil rights investigation, a city councilor believes a proactive step is needed to regain public trust.
City Councilor Jesse Lederman is urging the police department to pursue independent state and national accreditation.
"What I think it would say to the public and to rank-and-file police officers is that we are setting a standard for a new day at the Springfield Police Department," said Lederman.
The accreditation process requires police departments to meet over 200 standards for training, policies, and procedures. There is ongoing evaluation that results in a reaccreditation every three years. Only a small percentage of police departments in the country are accredited.
"It is a coveted process that is refered to as the gold standard in public safety," said Lederman.
In response to Lederman’s suggestion, Mayor Domenic Sarno said the police department was moving "in the direction" of accreditation by retaining the services last year of the Police Executive Research Forum to assess the department’s internal investigations unit.
A report from the Washington, D.C.-based organization is expected to be delivered this month.
City Councilor Orlando Ramos, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, believes what is needed is an “inside out” audit of the entire department.
"We want to look at everything and figure out a way to improve our police department and have a police department we can all be proud of," said Ramos.
John Barbieri abruptly retired last month after almost five years as police commissioner.
At least eight Springfield police officers are currently facing felony criminal charges and new investigations have been launched into possible crimes.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni is investigating two cases where videos appear to starkly contradict what police officers put in their official written reports.
In one, a desk officer grabs a man around the throat and wrestles with him in the lobby of police headquarters. The man says he was disputing a parking ticket and denies doing anything to warrant the violent response.
The prosecutor’s office is also investigating the arrest of a Springfield high school student. Security video shows a school resource officer suddenly grab the male student by the neck as they pass each other in a hallway.
Gulluni said the cases raise questions about the thoroughness of the police department’s internal reviews.
" When incidents like this happen, my office won't necessarily know about it unless it is refered to my office for a criminal review," said Gulluni. " I say this to all departments across the county we have to do a better job of creating a system where we are reliably and consistently getting these kind of things for review."
Acting Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood has pledged zero tolerance for what she called “rogue” behavior. She said new evidence of past misconduct by officers would be reviewed to consider if discipline, including termination, is warranted.
This week, Clapprood moved to fire Daniel Cintron. The police officer has been on unpaid leave since last July when he was indicted by a grand jury on 31 criminal charges including child rape with force.