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Sarno critical of reinstatement of two Springfield police officers

U.S. Department of Justice officials joined with Springfield, Massachusetts, to announce a proposed consent decree for the city's police department on April 13, 2022. From left: Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke and Springfield Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood.
Karen Brown
/
NEPM
In this file photo, U.S. Department of Justice officials joined with Springfield, Massachusetts, to announce a proposed consent decree for the city's police department. From left: Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke and Springfield Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he’s “concerned” with the reinstatement of two city police officers. The pair were convicted in connection with a 2015 off-duty fight outside of a city bar.

On Tuesday, the Springfield Police Commission voted to reinstate officers Christian Cicero and Daniel Billingsley. They were convicted of misdemeanor assault in March, and each received suspended sentences for their roles in the fight outside of Nathan Bill’s bar.

On Wednesday, Sarno issued a press release criticizing the police commission for going on with the hearing despite the absence of two members of the five-person board.

“I am dismayed on why this hearing and decision to reinstate these officers went forward with only three Police Commission members present,” Sarno said. “Although they met the requirements for a quorum under their rules and regulations, this serious matter should have been heard before the full complement of the Board of Police Commissioners.”

As for the decision to itself, to reinstate the officers, Sarno was also critical.

“Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood, myself and our Springfield Police Department continue to work so hard on enhancing and building community trust and simply put, this decision erodes our work,” the mayor said.

Sarno's office indicated Cicero and Billingsley still have a long way to go before returning to active duty. They must be certified by the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission. They will have to be caught up on many trainings and brought up to speed on new policies and procedures put into place over the last five years while they were off the job.

In addition, the city’s legal department will review whether conditions placed on the officers under their suspended sentences will prohibit them from returning to active duty. The press release said one area includes whether they are allowed to carry firearms.

Springfield City Council President Jesse Lederman joined Sarno in criticizing the Police Commission for acting without the full board present, saying it was “not appropriate or in line with their stated mission.” Lederman called on Sarno to “review his appointments to this body and determine who allowed this to take place.”

The creation of the commission itself was subject of a legal battle between the Springfield City Council and the mayor. The council twice voted to reestablish the board, but Sarno refused to implement it, insisting the ordinances violated city charter.

The City Council suing Sarno in 2020. This past February, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found in the council’s favor.

Since then, Sarno appointed the five members to the board, but its chair, Gary Berte, has complained the board does not have enough resources. There have also been concerns about commissioners not having a clear idea of its duties. The City Council held an oversight hearing to discuss these issues in October.

The convictions of Cicero and Billingsley stem from a 2015 fight, in which off-duty officers allegedly beat up four Black men outside of Nathan Bill’s. The victims eventually settled with the city for a combined $885,000.

The state attorney general’s office pursued the case and in 2019 announced it was charging 14 Springfield officers for their alleged actions during the melee, or for trying to cover it up. Since then, some of the defendants have had their charges dropped or have been acquitted. The Republican reports Cicero and Billingsley are the only ones who have been convicted so far.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.