At-Large Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman issues the following statement with regard to the Department of Justice Report on Patterns and Practices of the Springfield Police Department Narcotics Bureau, which was released on Wednesday following a multi-year investigation by the Federal Government.
Councilor Lederman is a member of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
“On Thursday morning I reviewed the report released by the U.S. Department of Justice. It is worth noting that the official report was not sent to the City Council by the City Solicitor, the Mayor, or the Police Commissioner. I received the link to the report from a reporter.
My initial reading of the report left me angry.
We entrust law enforcement officers with immense authority and charge them with the responsibility to protect and serve. To live up to this mandate the actions of officers must be beyond reproach. Unlawful and excessive actions like those described in the report by any member of the police force has the ripple effect of eroding public confidence and trust, which impacts the entire community.
But what is even more concerning is that the report doesn’t just call into question the actions of some singular individuals, it found that those actions were ‘attributable to systemic deficiencies in policies, accountability systems, and training.’ These systemic failings and deficiencies are an unacceptable disservice to both the public and the members of the Springfield Police Department.
Furthermore, it found that the existing Community Police Hearing Board ‘fails’ to achieve its goals of increasing transparency and accountability as the result of failure 'to equip its members
with the training and resources needed to adequately perform these tasks.' The DOJ further states that the CPHB was viewed as ‘politicized and ineffective’ by the public and perceived as lacking resources and training by officers.
The third largest City in Massachusetts has the responsibility, the resources, and the ingenuity to address this. It should not take the Federal Department of Justice to push our city to do so.
That is why I have been a longtime advocate of the installation of a Civilian Police Commission with real authority to increase transparency and accountability in the department’s policies, procedures, hiring, and discipline practices, and to create a fair process for residents and officers to be heard. It’s why I pushed hard for the department to enter the accreditation process and have police policies and procedures evaluated and regularly reviewed by outside professionals. It’s why I joined my colleagues on the City Council in support of body cameras, and to push for more funding specifically dedicated to training.
It is not enough to just say that we are working on it or simply implementing the recommendations of the report. We must go further to address those systemic failures. We must engage the community and the police to bridge the gap, to right the past wrongs, and envision a city where trust and professionalism leads to safety and justice for all.
As with all decisions in government, it isn’t enough for that process to take place only within the confines of the administration or behind the doors of City Hall. It must be a collective community effort. As we move forward, that will be my call to action.“