A swearing in ceremony was held today for the leader of the largest police department in western Massachusetts.
In the Mahogany Room of Springfield’s Symphony Hall with more than 100 members of law enforcement, elected officials, city residents, and family members looking on, Cheryl Clapprood took the oath of office to become the Springfield Police Commissioner.
" I look forward to serving the women and men of the Springfield Police Department and the citizens of Springfield honorably and with dignity for the next four years," said Clapprood.
Since being thrust into the job as acting commissioner seven months ago by the abrupt retirement of John Barbieri, Clapprood has been well-received by the 500-member police department and the public.
"Can we let the honeymoon continue for about four years?" joked Clapprood.
She assumed command at a critical time in the history of the Springfield Police Department, which had been hit with a series of headline grabbing scandals that raised questions about whether the department was capable of policing itself.
Clapprood, who has worked to boost morale and improve the department’s reputation, pledged to stay the course.
"We have to maintain a straight professional relationship, gain the trust of the community, treat people as we would like to be treated, and get back the respect and admiration of those we serve, and it can be done," said Clapprood who added " It is a slow process, but it can be done."
Mayor Domenic Sarno, who tapped Clapprood to become acting commissioner, announced her permanent appointment last month, praising the internal reforms she’s implemented and the fast tracking of a body-warn camera program that is expected to roll out by year’s end.
In an interview, Clapprood said her top priority is to hire and train more cops, a job made difficult by the recruiting problems facing law enforcement nationwide.
"I don't think we have a worse image problem than any other department," said Clapprood who said the media and others were "rehashing old events" and her objective is to get the community to focus on "what have you been doing lately?"
Having broken through the glass ceiling in a male-dominated profession, Clapprood confessed it was never her goal when she joined the Springfield Police Department 40 years ago to one day lead it.
She recalled on the day she was sworn in as a police officer telling her mother that she wanted to become a lientenant because " you had people below you to yell at and people above you who had the headaches."
During the nearly hour-long ceremony, Clapprood’s dedication to her profession was praised by fellow law enforcement leaders including Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, and U.S. Marshall John Gibbons.
Her commitment to the city of Springfield and especially its youth was underscored by U.S. Air Force Captain Joel Soto, who said he was “blessed” to have met Clappood when he was growing up in a housing project.
"I am hear to represent the voice of many children who have been touched by your leadership," said Soto. " I am simply a face of the youth sports program you started many years ago who has been given a platform to express gratitude for your selfless devotion."
Clapprood has signed a four-year contract. As commissioner, she will be paid $190,000 a-year.