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For Immediate Release

Press Release

Department of Justice Announces Policing Consent Decree with Springfield, Massachusetts

WASHINGTON -

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Wednesday, that it reached a settlement with the City of Springfield, Massachusetts following an investigation into a pattern of excessive force by the Springfield Police Department’s now-disbanded narcotics bureau. If approved by the judge, the consent decree will require the Springfield Police Department to assess whether officers used force appropriately and to create a new force investigation team, practices that many police departments follow but that were missing in Springfield. It also requires individual officers to report all uses of force and  intervene to prevent excessive force by fellow officers. This announcement marks the first consent decree sought by the Department of Justice, following the Trump administration’s refusal to seek consent decrees against police departments.

The following is a statement from Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

“The violence that the Springfield Police Department narcotics bureau historically engaged in, frequently against residents of color, shocks the conscience. Police officers who swear an oath to serve and protect, should never kick, punch, or spit on residents or engage in the other racially abusive tactics, let alone cause the severe head injuries, detailed in the Justice Department’s report.

“We applaud the Department of Justice for taking this step, and the leadership of Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for holding Springfield police accountable. Their reversal of the previous presidential administration’s ban on police department consent decrees is a needed move forward. Investigations, settlements and resultant consent decrees, are critical tools for ending unwarranted police violence. Yet, consent decrees cannot be a flash in the pan. They must be part of a broader strategy of change and accountability to shift the broken culture of policing in this country.

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The Lawyers’ Committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar’s leadership and resources in combating racial discrimination and the resulting inequality of opportunity – work that continues to be vital today.

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