Officials in Springfield, Massachusetts are pledging a full and complete investigation into allegations of misconduct by a school resource officer.
What was described at a City Hall news conference Tuesday as a “conflict” and “physical interaction” between a police officer and a student at Springfield’s Kiley Middle School will be investigated by the police department’s internal affairs unit, the Hampden District Attorney, the state’s child welfare agency, and the city’s civilian police review board.
"The information that was brought to our attention warrents a very closer look and further investigation," said Mayor Domenic Sarno'
He said city and school department officials made the April 22 incident public just as soon as they found out about it.
"We want to get to the bottom of this ASAP and make sure the issue is remedied as we continue to enhance and restore our police department's integrity and professionalism," said Sarno.
The Springfield Police Department has been reeling from a series of headline-grabbing cases of officer misconduct and has been accused in the past of foot dragging on internal investigations and cover ups.
Citing privacy laws when juveniles are involved, officials at the news conference said they could not disclose many details of what transpired. The officer, who was not identified, has been reassigned to “desk-duty” but not suspended, according to acting Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.
"And I can just gaurantee you a full and complete investigation," said Clapprood.
City and school officials said they became aware of the incident after the child was treated by a doctor, who notified the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families about suspected abuse. The officials said there is video of the incident.
Earlier this year, video circulated on social media that appeared to show a Springfield police officer grab a student by the neck in the hallway of Commerce High School. The Hampden District Attorney’s office is investigating.
Officers from what is called the Springfield Police Department’s Quebec Unit have been assigned to the public middle and high schools for at least 25 years. Sarno said Tuesday it is time to examine their duties.
"Things evolve," said Sarno " They ( school resource officers) have done a good job, but things do evolve."
Springfield School Superintendent Dan Warwick said he does not want police officers removed from the schools.
"Having school resource officers has insured student and staff safety," said Warwick. "There have been tragedies throughout the country. You have not seen tht in Springfield, thank God."
Police officers from the Quebec Unit are expected to provide security in the school buildings, and also to develop a rapport with students, according to Clapprood.
"A lot of students we hear from love the cops in the schools," said Clapprood. "They do good things and become mentors and studnets have gone on to become police officers because of the role models we have in the schools.'
Also on Tuesday, the Hampden District Attorney’s office issued an appeal for people to come forward if they witnessed a confrontation between two people in the Walmart parking lot on Boston Road in Springfield on the Saturday night before Easter.
An off-duty Springfield police captain is alleged to have drawn a firearm in the parking lot during an argument over a road-rage incident.
Captain Richard Labelle was suspended for five days last week by Clapprood and will be placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation by the DA.