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Springfield near top of police misconduct cases in new statewide database

Springfield Police Department vehicle.
Elizabeth Román
Springfield Police Department vehicle.

Massachusetts’ police oversight commission has released a long-awaited database of officers disciplined for misconduct.

Springfield’s police department had the second highest number of complaints, behind the state police, accounting for more than 200 officers on the list. They were disciplined for such actions as excessive force, bias based on race or sex, and other crimes or rule-breaking.

Some Springfield officers were charged multiple times, for a total of more than 400 complaints.

Enrique Zuniga is director of the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission, which was created through the state’s 2020 police reform law.

"One of the next milestones for POST is to move towards the the notion of certifying agencies and auditing their records to look for potentially systemic type of of issues," Zuniga said.

The data covers the period between December 1984 and January 2023. Zuniga said it will be updated regularly as new disciplinary cases occur.

Other western Massachusetts officers in the database include 12 from Northampton, 15 from Holyoke, 17 from Pittsfield, and one from Greenfield.

"No officer wants to see themselves in these types of databases," Zuniga said. "So the obvious assumption is that [through the list] officers are continuously reminded of the high standards that are expected of them."

Zuniga said the database was delayed, in part, to ensure the records were accurate, although some critics say there is still information missing.

Zuniga said it does not include records for officers who have retired in good standing, nor for pending cases and those that were not substantiated. The commission also excluded what he called “minor” matters.

Going forward, Zuniga said the commission will be vigilant for cases of misconduct that are not reported by the officer’s own department.

“We can act almost like a superior court," he said. "We can select the type of cases that we want to prioritize, for example, to bring before the commission and in parallel or regardless to what happens locally, an officer can face discipline before the commission.”

Statewide, the list includes about 3,400 substantiated complaints against officers. A vast majority of them kept their licenses to serve.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.
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