Missouri violence concerns Springfield NAACP leader - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Missouri violence concerns Springfield NAACP leader

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As we continue to witness what is taking place in Ferguson, MO, the leader of the NAACP of Greater Springfield has concerns about similar unrest happening closer to home.

Rev. Talbert Swan said distrust between residents and police in Ferguson played a big role in what has happened in that city.

Swan said we are witnessing similar issues here in Western Massachusetts.

"All of the elements that created the situation in Ferguson exist in Springfield," said Swan. "I think we need to be proactive about addressing it."

To get the ball rolling, Swan sent a letter to Mayor Domenic Sarno on Wednesday.

In it, he asked the mayor to establish a commission to tackle potential underlying issues.

Sarno responded in a letter of his own, saying the city has already established committees, including the Mayor's Violence Prevention Task Force.

Swan said those committees are designed to curb violence, but they are not addressing trust issues.

"We're focusing on a community partnership with law enforcement, to deal with residents who commit crimes," said Swan. "The flip side of the argument about residents committing crime are police who abuse their authority."

Swan responded to Sarno's letter on Friday, asking about the city's human relations commission. 

Swan said that group, which promoted equal rights in the city, has been inactive during Sarno's time in office.

Swan also praised the city's new Police Commissioner John Barbieri.

"He really wants to see an improvement in the relationship between the community and the police, and he is working towards that end," said Barbieri. "I just think there needs to be some more voices in the discussion."

The mayor's office told CBS 3 on Friday that Sarno stood by his letter.

Swan believes, like many areas across the country, the city is polarized on the topics of police and race.

"Instead of all of our walls coming up and defenses coming out whenever those words are mentioned, we need to sit down together and have some open and honest, candid dialogue," said Swan.

Swan also sent a letter with similar concerns to Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse.

Morse responded with a letter of his own and Swan said the two are now discussing ways to work together in the Paper City.

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