SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Could what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri happen here? That’s what the head of the Springfield NAACP wants to prevent.
Rev. Talbert Swan is asking Springfield and Holyoke to form a new commission to deal with tension between police and the community.
Two weeks ago, Ferguson, Missouri was just a blip on the map, now everyone knows the name of that city. Nearly two weeks of civil unrest and violence have followed the police shooting death of an 18 year old black man.
“When a police officer shoots an unarmed person, it is the historic distrust that the community has with the police that creates this type of response,” said Rev. Talbert Swan, II.
To ensure that something similar won’t happen here, Greater Springfield NAACP President Rev. Talbert Swan sent letters to the mayors of Holyoke and Springfield asking to form a commission dealing with the tension between police and those communities. Springfield mayor Domenic Sarno responded in a letter highlighting several of the programs the city already has, but did not agree to a new commission.
Rev. Swan told 22News Mayor Sarno is missing his point. “The jist of my request was to have a group of folks looking at the perception of the public around police actions,” said Rev. Swan.
That perception is far from perfect. “It’s not what the community can do for the police, it’s what the police can do for the community because nobody wants to call the police these days,” said Springfield’s Lawrence Gilliam.
Swan told 22News the mayor of Ferguson, likely would have had the same response two weeks ago
Holyoke’s mayor was out of town, but we spoke with Holyoke’s police chief. Chief Neiswanger also highlighted several of the programs his police department is involved with; community policing, mobile community policing, cultural diversity training and crisis intervention training.
Chief Neiswanger also told 22News police officers carry tasers to hopefully prevent officer-involved shootings which are a last resort. Chief Neiswanger said this is not a time to form a new commission, but every police department is talking about what is happening in Ferguson and what they can do better. He adds, “it may change the face of policing.”