Springfield City Councilors Call For Police Policy Changes, Other Reforms (WAMC)

Listen to the original story from Paul Tuthill here.

After a week that saw massive marches, protest rallies, and vigils in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts following the death of George Floyd, elected officials are pledging policy changes.

Eleven of the 13 members of the Springfield City Council stood on the front steps of City Hall Tuesday evening and promised to deliver policies to stop police misconduct and combat racism.

"We're here because we have heard the voices of the Springfield residents who are demanding change," said Councilor Orlando Ramos, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

He announced recommendations to strengthen the Springfield Police Department’s use of force policy and to improve the handling of citizen complaints.

"We're here to ensure that we are going to do everything we can as the legislative authority of the city of Springfield to protect the public from police misconduct," said Ramos.

Although the Springfield Police Department does not authorize or train officers to use chokeholds, Ramos said the policy should explicitly ban chokeholds and “carotid restraints.” He said de-escalation should be the first option in the department’s five progression of force levels.

A spokesman for the Springfield Police said Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood did not object to strengthening the language about chokeholds in the department’s use of force policy.

Ramos also called on the city to make citizen complaint forms available by phone and online and for the police department to create a tracking system for complaints along with an early intervention program to spot and if necessary retrain problematic officers.

"We all know who the bad apples are. They know who the bad apples are. And it is time to get rid of those bad apples," said Ramos.

Other Councilors announced resolutions they plan to introduce at the next meeting on June 22nd.

Councilor Marcus Williams said he will call for support to create a national registry of decertified police officers. The idea is to prevent a cop who has been fired in one jurisdiction for misconduct from getting hired somewhere else.

"I will say that as an African-American male and an elected official, Black and brown bodies are tired of being a teachable moment," said Williams. " When will the lesson be learned?"

Councilors Tim Allen and Mike Fenton are filing a resolution that calls for Massachusetts to require the licensure of police officers as it does with other a host of professions including lawyers, electricians, and hair stylists.

"This is good for the good cops and it is good for us to weed out the bad cops," said Fenton.

A resolution that declares racism to be a public health emergency will be introduced by City Councilor Adam Gomez.

"Our communities must demand accountability and action from our leaders and the work to build trust between the government and the people must begin now," declared Gomez.

About 50 activists gathered for the press conference with some calling for the councilors to take additional steps, including removing school resource officers.

A week ago, as many as 3,000 people took part in a Black Lives Matter protest march from Central High School to the Springfield Police Department headquarters. It was the largest demonstration the city had witnessed in decades.

There were two protest marches against police brutality in the city last Saturday.

A prayer vigil for peace attracted up to 300 people to the steps of City Hall last week.

This Friday evening, Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski is planning to hold a prayer service for racial healing in front of Saint Michael’s Cathedral.

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