As a step to restore community trust, the acting commissioner of the troubled Springfield, Massachusetts police department is planning to pursue accreditation.
Acting Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said she plans to revamp the police department’s policies and procedures to adhere to nationally recognized law enforcement standards.
"The problem in the police department now is our policies and procedures are not up to date," said Clapprood. "They all need to be brought up to standards."
Meeting with members of the Springfield City Council Public Safety Committee this week, Clapprood said she plans to hire a person to manage the department’s quest for accreditation from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission.
One obstacle to the goal is the 50-year-old police headquarters building on Pearl Street, which Clapprood said is outdated and falls well short of requirements for modern policing.
" It is going to fail in too many areas and they tell me that to get it up to accreditation standards would cost more than a new building," said Clapprood.
Last year, the Massachusetts legislature included funds in a bond bill for a new police headquarters in Springfield, but Gov. Charlie Baker must first authorize borrowing the money before the project could get underway. The city has pledged to cover half the costs, currently estimated at $92 million.
Clapprood said the police department can probably meet the standards for certification, a first step in the more rigorous accreditation process.
The City Council this week passed a resolution urging the police department to seek accreditation.
In the last few years, a series of incidents and lawsuits have renewed questions of how police misconduct is investigated and dealt with in Springfield. At least eight current or former Springfield police officers are awaiting trials on serious felony charges. The Hampden District Attorney’s office is investigating two separate cases, captured on video, of what appear to be unprovoked physical assaults by police officers on civilians – one a high school student.
Clapprood, who took over when John Barbieri abruptly retired as commissioner last month, has pledged to build up the department’s reputation. This week, she acknowledged a black mark on her own 40-year service record.
In a letter printed on the front page of the Springfield Republican, Clapprood referenced a 1989 off-duty incident when she was a police sergeant. It led to her being convicted of filing a false report. A suspension and a demotion were overturned on appeal. In 2013, the misdemeanor criminal conviction was expunged.
Speaking with the newspaper’s editorial board, Clapprood declined to discuss in any detail what happened 30 years ago.
"There were some wrongs done, and I screwed up out of naivete and out of inexperience and I was called on it," Clapprood said.
She has an exemplary record since, rising through the ranks to become a deputy chief two years ago.
The City Council this week approved a new four-year contract with the union representing police supervisors. It moves Springfield closer to becoming the first large city in Massachusetts to outfit its police officers with body-worn cameras.
The supervisors agreed to the same body camera requirements that patrol officers have, according to police Capt. Brian Keenan, the supervisors’ union president.
" As supervisors we see them as an important tool in 21st Century policing and we look foward to having them," Keenan said when asked about the union agreeing to a body camera program.
City officials have not said when the police will start wearing body cameras.
The new contract comes with pay raises totaling 14 percent. There is a requirement that newly hired officers must live in Springfield for at least 10 years.