Dr. Gary Berte appointed to Springfield Community Police Hearing Board

Sarno defending decision to veto bill for civilian police commission

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno appointed a new member to the city’s Community Police Hearing Board Monday. The appointment came amid the City Council’s push to have a five-member police commission control the department’s hiring and firing and day-to-day operations.

Sarno vetoed their vote to go back to the old system. Monday, he stated that politics does not belong in the police department, and cited issues that it has caused in the past.

Sarno also said that the current eight-member Community Police Hearing Board has been well established to give the community a voice in the review process, and says that the police commissioner has always listened.

Monday, Sarno appointed Dr. Gary Berte to replace Richard Muise, who had to retire from the board for medical issues. Berte is a former Springfield College police officer, who served for 13 years. He is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at Springfield College.

“For the past several years, I’ve looked at and examined what might be considered best practices and I’m not so sure it’s such a thing. There’s no such thing as a cookie cutter approach, and as I looked and studied as to how the current board evolved, it’s come through quite a few evolutionary stages and I think where we’re at now is where we need to be,” Berte said.

Sarno also said that under the direction of Commissioner John Barbieri and community policing, the Springfield Police Department has decreased crime rates by 13%, and the number of homicides has gone down 30% in the past year.

The Springfield City Council is expected to vote Monday night to override Sarno’s veto of the civilian police commission.