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Massachusetts city agrees with U.S. Justice Department to reform police

World Apr 13, 2022 01:17PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke speaks during a news conference where U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (not pictured) announced that the Justice Department will file a lawsuit challenging a Georgia election law

By Nate Raymond

BOSTON (Reuters) - The city of Springfield, Massachusetts has agreed to carry out reforms to resolve claims that its narcotics officers routinely used excessive force, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday, in the first settlement of its type under President Joe Biden.

The settlement was the first court-enforced consent decree to require overhauls at a police department reached with a city since Attorney General Merrick Garland in April 2021 rescinded a policy implemented under the Democrat Biden's Republican predecessor Donald Trump that sharply curtailed their use.

A Justice Department investigation found that officers in the Springfield Police Department's now-disbanded Narcotics Bureau engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, routinely punching people in the face and often facing no discipline.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said the consent decree would help restore public trust in the city's police and stressed that the Justice Department is pursuing similar probes in cities including Minneapolis, Louisville and Phoenix.

The Minneapolis probe was announced after a white police officer was convicted last year of murdering a Black man named George Floyd in a 2020 incident that triggered racial justice protests in many U.S. cities.

"We are not going to turn our backs on the need for policing reform and the need for constitutional policing in communities across out country," Clarke told a news conference.

Springfield is a city of about 155,000 people located approximately 90 miles (145 km) west of Boston.

The Springfield investigation began in 2018 and resulted in 2020 in the only pattern-or-practice case of Trump's administration.

While consent decrees had long been used to overhaul police departments, the Justice Department announced no new ones during Trump's four years in office. The since-rescinded 2018 memo by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions curtailed their use.

The Springfield consent decree calls for a court-appointed independent monitor, requires officers to report all uses of force and calls for the creation of a team to investigate the most serious uses of force.

"We want to have the best police department," Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said at the news conference.

Massachusetts city agrees with U.S. Justice Department to reform police
 

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