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Group Of Seniors Wants Springfield Police Commissioner Gone After She Denied Racism In Department

Springfield, Massachusetts, Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood takes the oath from District Court Judge John Payne during her swearing-in ceremony, in October 2019.
Adam Frenier
Springfield, Massachusetts, Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood takes the oath from District Court Judge John Payne during her swearing-in ceremony, in October 2019.

A group of seniors in Springfield, Massachusetts, are calling for the removal of the city's police commissioner for what they say is her resistance to police reform.

When local members of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council met with police commissioner Cheryl Clapprood in April, they said, they were hoping to educate her about racial profiling and other discrimination by police.

“The police department, as we Black and brown people see it, is a department that protects white people from Black people,” said Emurriel Holloway, a 76-year-old retired educator.

But Holloway said Clapprood dismissed their concerns.

“She lacked respect or any kind of sensitivity to what we shared as our observations and experiences,” Holloway said.

In a follow up letter to the group, distributed to the media by City Councilor Justin Hurst, Clapprood wrote that the police are “not murderers or systemic racists."

“My department is not racist nor do we suffer from systemic racism,” she continued, “as we save many lives weekly and we consist of the same backgrounds, races, religion, and origins as our community. My department is not implicitly biased.”

Holloway said an effective leader should at least acknowledge racial bias.

“If a person can't even see that,” she said, “there's no hope for any kind of change.”

In a statement sent later to NEPM, Clapprood wrote, “We acknowledge the endemic problems including systemic racism that have plagued the criminal justice system for far too long. We are committed to being an active participant in the conversation and movement to create not only a more fair and representative criminal justice system but to create a more open and inclusive society. “ 

A scathing 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Justice found widespread problems in the Springfield police narcotics department, including excessive force and no accountability. Several community groups have called on Clapprood and the mayor to clarify how they plan to reform the police department.

The Massachusetts Senior Action Council and other city leaders, including Hurst, plan to rally on June 9 at City Hall to demand Clapprood's removal.

“I'm doing something that I think that I feel needs to be done, needs to be brought to the light,” said Bernice Ezell, 75 . “The residents of Springfield need to know where our police commissioner stands on issues of racism and harassment and the fact that people are afraid when a police approaches them. We don't feel safe because we don't know what the end results will be.”

Copyright 2021 New England Public Media

Karen 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 since for New England Public Radio since 1998. Her pieces have won a number of national awards, including the National Edward R. Murrow Award, Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) Award, and the Erikson Prize for Mental Health Reporting for her body of work on mental illness.

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