SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The leader of the Greater Springfield NAACP says that the city has been making commendable efforts to reduce gang violence, but needs to do more to deal with potential police misconduct, in order to ensure civil unrest like what happened in Ferguson, Missouri does not happen here. In a letter sent Friday to Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, the Rev. Talbert Swan said that he wants to work alongside new Police Commissioner John Barbeiri to improve relations between the police department and local residents. But he said that the city should work with the community to develop things such as a protocol for shootings involving police officers and a citywide civil rights policy.
Swan’s letter was a response to a letter sent by Sarno earlier in the week highlighting efforts that the city has made to improve relations between the police department and the community as a whole. Such efforts highlighted by Sarno include community policing strategies, the use of a neighborhood violence prevention task force, and the creation of a review board that hears cases of misconduct and makes recommendations to the commissioner.
While applauding those efforts, Swan noted that the city has paid more than $1 million in settlements for police misconduct just since Sarno took office in 2008, not including legal fees. He says that cases of misconduct are not only costly to taxpayers, but to the public trust and safety as well.
“The continued mistrust between residents and police creates a dangerous atmosphere in our city, where some residents are unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement and some police continue to disrespect residents and abuse their authority,” Swan said.