Springfield officials voice concerns over convicted officers’ reinstatement
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Concerns are being expressed in Springfield after two off-duty police officers convicted in a bar fight back in 2015 are now back on the police force.
The decision came from the city’s new board of police commissioners, but they voted without 2 of the 5 commissioners in the room.
Many people are upset that this vote took place Tuesday night. However, we have confirmed that it is legally legitimate in the eyes of the city.
Multiple off-duty Springfield Police officers were arrested after a bar fight outside Nathan Bill’s in 2015, and two of them were convicted of misdemeanor assault in April with no prison sentence unless their probation is violated. Those Officers are Daniel Billingsley and Christian Cicero. They remained suspended from their jobs.
However, on Tuesday night, the Springfield Board of Police Commissioners voted to reinstate the two men as Springfield Police officers. There has been a lot of controversy around that vote as two members of the board were not present for it, including Norman Roldan.
“They thought it was just informational,” Roldan explained. “I think the board should have waited. I think a legit vote would be at least three.”
He said that three members – Gary Berte, Madeline Fernandez, and Albert Tranghese – were all present for the vote. Berte and Tranghese voted ‘yes’ to reinstate the officers, and Fernandez voted ‘no.’ Roldan and Robert C. Jackson never had a say in the matter.
“Citizens want a fair shot, people who represent the city, to have all five commissioners present to make a decision,” Roldan said. “At that point, it would be a fair process.”
Western Mass News checked in with City Solicitor Judge Payne, who confirmed that the vote was legitimate. He said that they met the requirements for a quorum, making it a legal vote even if two members of the board were not present.
Mayor Domenic Sarno shared his disappointment regarding their choice to vote without all board members, releasing a statement that reads, quote:
“I am very concerned with the Board of Police Commissioners decision to reinstate two convicted police officers. Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood, myself, and our Springfield Police Department continue to work so hard on enhancing and building community trust and simply put, this decision erodes our work.”
State Representative Orlando Ramos is going a step further, calling on someone to resign from the board and sending Western Mass News a statement that reads in part, quote:
“Someone needs to resign. Whether it was Board Chairman Gary Berte and Commissioner Albert Tranghese, or the legal counsel who advised them; whoever is responsible needs to go.”
He also believes the vote should be considered invalid.
We spoke with Criminal Justice Professor Creaig Dunton, who explained how this can be possible if both men were found guilty of crimes.
“If it’s a felony, a sex offense, certain drug convictions, or certain vehicular convictions,” he told us. “So, a misdemeanor like these police officers received does not mean they would officially lose their job.”
In Mayor Sarno’s statement, he did list the steps that will be required moving forward after this vote.
First, Superintendent Clapprood will now have to send their mandatory police certification to the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission for them to review and determine if they will be state certified.
Second, since they have not been in service for five years, the officers will have to complete multiple in-service trainings and be updated on the new policies and procedures.
Third, City Solicitor Judge John Payne will have to review their suspended sentence status issued by the Superior Court to determine if they are legally eligible to return to their ability to carry firearms.
Mayor Sarno also said that the board of police commissioners in no way owes any back pay to the two officers.
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