SPRINGFIELD — Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood is pleased to share several milestones and successes achieved by the Springfield Police Department in 2021.
Last year, Springfield Police officers responded to 261,129 calls for service and made 3,180 arrests. Additionally, the most serious types of crimes, classified by the FBI as “part one” offenses decreased in 2021, down 2% from 2020. Part one crime is both violent and property crime and includes crimes such as homicide, rape, robberies, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny and felony assaults.
“We are encouraged by the continued downward trend in the most serious crimes in our city. As we continue into the new year and hopefully away from the global pandemic, it is my sincere hope that we can continue to grow the types of community partnerships between police and citizens that help keep our cities safe,” Commissioner Clapprood said.
A total of 255 illegally possessed firearms were seized department-wide last year, of which 131 were large capacity firearms and 27 were so-called “ghost guns” with removed or altered serial numbers, making them impossible to trace.
Commissioner Clapprood announced the creation of the Firearms Investigation Unit (FIU) in July to address the uptick in gun violence in the city. With this shift, the department’s Narcotics Unit was decommissioned and narcotics investigation resources were reallocated to regional and state task forces, which are comprised of a mix of municipal, county, state and federal investigators. Since its creation, the FIU has seized 117 of the 255 total illegally possessed firearms found in Springfield.
“We’ve implemented many strategies city-wide to prevent and deter crime, and the success we’ve seen in decreasing crime rates and firearm seizures are all credit to the thorough and diligent work of Springfield’s Police officers and detectives,” Commissioner Clapprood said. “Our FIU members and patrol officers have done excellent work this year seizing illegally possessed firearms, and this is work we will continue to focus on as gun violence continues to be a problem our city faces.”
In June, the department marked one year of body-worn camera usage by the first 12 Springfield Police officers and supervisors. Training on the usage of BWCs began in winter of 2019, and the program was fully implemented in June 2020. The Springfield Police Department was one of two departments in the country that operationalized a BWC program during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has been called a model program by the department’s Department of Justice (DOJ) liaison. In 2021, 24,310 total hours were recorded by officers’ BWCs.
Additionally, the BWC program has aided in resolving complaints against officers. In 2021, the department’s Internal Investigations Unit (IIU) received seven citizen complaints involving physical force used by officers. One of these complaints was against the now former Narcotics Unit. BWC footage was a significant aspect of each review, and resulted in none of the seven complaints being sustained by the City’s Community Police Hearing Board.
Another significant milestone reached in 2021 was the administration of the 250th life-saving dose of nasal Naloxone (Narcan). In 2021 alone, the department recorded 139 lives saved using Narcan. Springfield Police officers began carrying Narcan in spring of 2019.
The department also expanded the number of Behavioral Health Network clinicians available to co-respond with officers to mental health calls from four clinicians to six. Co-responding clinicians help by utilizing de-escalation techniques, providing victim assistance, connecting residents in need to critical services, and more. In 2021, clinicians were called to respond with an officer 1,927 times. During those calls, BHN clinicians on scene made more than 800 contacts with residents. Due to a variety of circumstances, clinicians may sometimes be called but no longer needed at the scene when they arrive.
Springfield Police officers and supervisors also completed various trainings over the past year. By the end of 2021, all 16 officers and one supervisor in the department’s Quebec unit for Springfield’s schools completed the Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) training programs required by the Massachusetts Police Reform Legislation that was signed into law in December 2020. Additionally, Springfield Police sergeants attended professional development training in July through American International College. The two-day, 16-hour course taught by Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn and co-sponsored by American International College educated the department’s first-line supervisors on progressive discipline, leadership and supervision.
To further enhance its efforts in transparency, the department launched a new official website. The website, springfieldmapolice.com, has multiple user-friendly and resource-oriented features including information about the department and its history, community policing and Sector Beat Management Meetings, department and community-based resources, and more. Residents can also submit tips, request records and find various forms.
The department continued its process toward achieving Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission (MPAC) State Certification in 2021, reaching the third phase of the process, which is self-assessment. During this phase, the department internally evaluates its policies and procedures and makes any necessary changes to meet the criteria for certification. The Springfield Police Use of Force policy and IIU Policy meet MPAC standards, but remain under review by the DOJ. Following the self-assessment phase, an onsite assessment by Commission-appointed assessors will be scheduled.
Finally, Commissioner Clapprood authored a children’s book with assistance from elementary student artists at the White Street School. The book is called “Kacey, a Bee and a Tree” and is about the department’s emotional support dog, Kacey. The Commissioner visited the school with Kacey in June to read the book to kindergarten students and meet the elementary students who created the illustrations. Each student artist also received a printed copy of the book. See a video here.
“I am proud of the many successes and improvements in the department this year. We have worked hard to implement and expand important programs like body-worn cameras, Narcan and clinician co-response, and launched our new website and continued work toward MPAC Certification, all of which continue to align us with law enforcement best practices,” Commissioner Clapprood said. “We will continue working to modernize the Springfield Police Department, ensure transparency and accountability, and provide the best possible service to those who live in, work in or visit our City.”
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno states, “I want to applaud and commend Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood, her leadership team and all of our brave and dedicated men and women in Blue for their continued and unyielding efforts to serve and protect our residents and business community. Tremendous progress has been achieved this past year, despite the struggles from the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioner Clapprood and I are encouraged to see the downward trend in most crimes continue. However, we must remain vigilant. SPD and our Firearms Investigation Unit, under the leadership of Captain Brian Keenan, continue to take a record number of illegal guns and drugs off our streets but again we need the courts to back us up so we can keep these violent repeat offenders off our streets and out of our neighborhoods.”
He added, “In addition, our SPD continues to reach significant milestones from our body-worn camera program that has brought transparency and accountability to the department, to our brave and dedicated officers saving a record 139 lives through the use of Narcan. Our partnership with BHN continues to be successful and productive in responding to mental health calls and Commissioner Clapprood, Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris and I are looking forward to trying to expand this initiative. Once again, congratulations to Commissioner Clapprood and all of the brave men and women in Blue for their selfless service and efforts. God Bless our SPD and God Bless the City of Springfield.”