Just weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into possible civil rights violations by the Springfield Police Narcotics Unit, several Springfield city councilors want more information from city leaders and the police commissioner.
The city’s police commissioner and city solicitors claim the Department of Justice has not given a lot of information about what prompted the investigation.
Information so far reveals the investigation will look into police practices, and to see if any patterns exist in what used to be the narcotics unit of the Springfield Police Department
When city councilors of the Public Safety Subcommittee asked if the Department of Justice investigation was prompted by any high profile incidents or investigations, the response was 'no' from police commissioner and city officials.
The commissioner said it could be prompted by news stories or even public reports.
When Western Mass News spoke with the police commissioner after the Monday afternoon meeting, he said to his knowledge that the Department of Justice would be looking over policies and practices from the last five years.
In 2016, the narcotics unit became a focus point as a video came to light of two detectives interrogating teens charged with stealing an undercover police car.
One of those detectives, Greg Bigda, could be heard threatening to kill one of the teens and plant drug evidence. Detective Bigda was suspended and demoted but remains employed by the department.
The commissioner said he has faith in the men and women of that unit while maintaining that he thinks the investigation will only better the department.
"We want to be transparent, we want the public to trust us. If there is an issue we want to address it having experts from the Department of Justice is viewed as being positive and getting us further down the road," said Commissioner John Barbieri.
The commissioner added that as of Monday, the Department of Justice has not requested any documents, but that their investigation will likely involve a combination of records reviews and interviews with police and citizens of Springfield.
As for the timeline of this investigation by the Department of Justice, the commissioner did not have any answer as to how long it may take to release those findings.
Again, the commissioner said that any issues that are brought to light from this investigation will be handled by his department.
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