SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Calls are growing for new leadership at the Springfield Police Department. A group of Springfield senior citizens gathered with civil rights organizers in downtown Springfield on Wednesday to call for the city’s police commissioner, Cheryl Clapprood, to step down.
The organizers not just called for a new head of the police department, but also for the mayor to break his silence on the growing calls for a new commissioner.
Dozens gathered on the steps of city hall today. Many of them were senior residents in the community and called for Clapprood to resign.
“So your racist ways and actions, your bias is all known,” said Springfield City Council Vice President Tracye Whitfield.
The rally was organized by the Massachusetts Senior Action Council. They said Clapprood responded unprofessionally to their concerns regarding racial bias within the police department during a Zoom meeting back in April.
“I too cringed at her responses and the brazenness in the way she dismissed our seniors and thought it was okay,” said Springfield City Councilor Justin Hurst.
They claim that in a follow-up letter in May, the commissioner dismissed community concerns about how the department interacts with people of color and showed no compassion or empathy for minorities.
“…And to double it down, the letter was extremely harmful and devastating for many of our members,” said Tracey Carpenter with the Mass. Senior Action Council.
The group also highlighted a police interaction more than a decade ago that ended in the death of a teenager. The mother of Delano Walker, a 15-year-old Springfield boy who was struck and killed by a car during a police confrontation back in 2009, spoke out on the life taken too soon from her family.
“My son will never be promoted to anything. He couldn’t get promoted to high school. He couldn’t go further and get promoted to get a job,” said Walker’s mother.
Western Mass News spoke to Clapprood last week regarding the growing calls for her to step down. At that time, she told us she does not plan to leave her post, but instead will continue to work on police reform.
"We welcome efforts nationally and here in Massachusetts to improve the profession of policing and I pledge an open door policy and promise an open and honest dialogue with anyone who shares these goals in earnest,” Clapprood said last week.
Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno responded to Wednesday’s rally. He told Western Mass News:
“I am just coming off a very productive meeting with City Council President Marcus Williams and Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood. We had a very good and open dialogue on sensitivity issues and we plan to continue this dialogue on a regular basis. I travel throughout this community day in and day out and I speak with, listen to, and work with a cross section of people in our community and generally they indicate to me that they are pleased with the overall work we are doing. I understand that we are not 100% correct and that we face challenges, but we are always striving to be better and make things better for everyone in our community.”
One of the organizers reacted to that statement from the mayor and told us they want more transparency and not just conversations behind closed doors. In addition, they want the city to focus more on police training.