Springfield's Police Commissioner Sees Shortage Of Veteran Personnel As Her Biggest Challenge | WAMC

Springfield's Police Commissioner Sees Shortage Of Veteran Personnel As Her Biggest Challenge

Sep 30, 2019

Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood joined the department in 1979.
Credit WAMC

       The word “acting” was recently removed from the job title of Cheryl Clapprood.  The veteran cop is now the Police Commissioner in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

               The 40-year veteran of the Springfield Police was abruptly put in charge at a critical time in the 400-member department’s history.

          Clapprood’s appointment as acting commissioner was announced by Mayor Domenic Sarno at a hastily called news conference in City Hall on February 20, 2018. where Sarno began by saying he had that day accepted the retirement of John Barbieri as police commissioner.

           Her predecessor was out, suddenly, after four years as commissioner.  The department had been rocked by several headline-grabbing misconduct allegations.  There were investigations underway by the U.S. Justice Department and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

           Standing next to Sarno, Clapprood vowed to restore the reputation of the Springfield Police Department.

        "I am going to stress to the officers that I am going to demand accountability and if somebody goes rogue or does something wrong, they will be held accountable," said Clapprood.

          To show she was serious about not tolerating “rogue” behavior, the new acting commissioner fired a police officer who had been indicted on multiple criminal charges, including child rape, but had been allowed to remain on the force, on leave, since December 2017.

           Clapprood made changes in how the department handles reports of officer misconduct and put a new captain in charge of internal investigations who reports directly to the commissioner.

          Since taking over, Clapprood has made it a priority to fill supervisory spots in the department, believing it will restore discipline and pride within the ranks and restore public trust.   Clapprood has promoted five sergeants, four lieutenants, two captains, and a deputy chief.

         She has taken steps to eventually outfit all the city’s police officers with body-worn cameras – something City Councilors have demanded for years.

         Seven months to the day after Sarno put her in charge of the department, he announced her permanent appointment as commissioner with a four-year contract.

         "She has brought back stability and confidence to the ( police) department," said Sarno in an interview.

          He said he saw no need to conduct a nationwide search for a police commissioner because Clapprood had done " an exemplary job"  as acting commissioner.

        "She has been well-received by the public and our business community, and respected by the rank-and-file," added Sarno.

          In an interview, Clapprood said her plans are to continue what she started when she was suddenly put in charge.

          "I know my biggest problem is personnel, manpower," said Clapprood.

          To fill vacancies on the force caused by a spike in retirements, Clapprood said her goal is to recruit 50 people to enroll in the next police academy and to persuade more veteran patrol officers to apply for promotions.

           " That's what this job is all about, experienced people showing the younger people how it is done and should be done, and when you lose that it really hurts the organization." said Clapprood.

          Clapprood said she has been working with the police unions to put counseling programs in place to reduce stress and improve morale.

           "I think we are ok and I think we'll be good," she said when asked about morale.

          A formal swearing-in ceremony for Clapprood is planned next week.