Apr 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

DOJ reaches agreement with Springfield, Mass., to reform police

DOJ building

The Department of Justice building in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 9. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Justice said Wednesday that the Springfield, Massachusetts, Police Department has entered into a "court enforceable consent decree" to mandate reforms within the department.

Why it matters: This marks the first consent decree launched by the DOJ on policing since Attorney General Merrick Garland reversed a Trump-era policy that limited the use of these kind of agreements to change police departments and government agencies.

  • During a news conference on Wednesday, justice officials and city leaders said the court-approved agreement would "lay out a road map for the department to improve accountability by requiring officers to report "all uses of force, including punches and kicks" and creating an investigation team to review the most serious incidents.
  • Under Garland, the department has opened up investigations into police departments in Minneapolis; Louisville, Kentucky; Phoenix and Mount Vernon, New York, according to the Washington Post.

Background: In 2016, Springfield's narcotics officer Gregg Bigda kicked and spat at a juvenile while making an arrest, saying "welcome to the white man’s world,” according to a 2020 investigation. The officer was found not guilty.

  • The investigation concluded that the Springfield Narcotics Bureau had engaged in a pattern of excessive force directly attributable to "systemic deficiencies in policies, accountability systems and training."

What they're saying: “When communities don’t trust or fear law enforcement, it undermines public safety,” said U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins for the District of Massachusetts, in a statement.

  • "We want the reputation we deserve. There's an overwhelming majority of my officers, young women and men that go out on shifts every day and every day put their lives on the line for people they don't know," added Springfield Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood at the press conference on Wednesday.
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