Police Abuse

Justice Department Finds Massachusetts Drug Squad Regularly Uses Excessive Force and Covers It Up

The report found it was "not uncommon for Narcotics Bureau officers to write false or incomplete narratives that justify their uses of force." 

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A police narcotics unit in Springfield, Massachusetts, regularly uses excessive force on suspects, including punching them in the face, and frequently fails to document the incidents or falsifies reports, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said in a report released Wednesday night.

The Justice Department report found that officers in the Springfield Police Department's Narcotic Bureau "regularly punch subjects in the head and neck area without legal justification," resulting in a "pattern or practice" of unconstitutional excessive force under the Fourth Amendment.

The report also found it was "not uncommon for Narcotics Bureau officers to write false or incomplete narratives that justify their uses of force." 

Justice Department investigators cited one instance where an injury report of an arrestee only noted "small cuts to the face." However, pictures of the man "clearly show severe contusions and dark bruising on the right side of his face, a large black eye, a gash on the bridge of his nose, and additional abrasions on the left side of his face and the left side of his nose."

Because of rampant underreporting of use-of-force incidents, the use of vague language to obscure the extent of injuries, and the outright falsification of police reports, the Justice Department concluded that excessive force incidents were likely more widespread than the many violations captured in its report.

And there was little to no discipline for officers involved in those civil rights violations. Because of poor reporting requirements, lax supervisor oversight, and lazy internal affairs reviews, the report found that there was not a single sustained excessive force finding against a member of the narcotics team over the past six years.

"I've said many times that being a police officer is the toughest job in America. We owe these public servants our respect and our support," Attorney General William Barr said in a press release accompanying the report. "But with this high calling comes a tremendous responsibility to uphold the public trust. The Department of Justice is committed to supporting our law enforcement while holding departments accountable that violate this sacred trust."

Springfield cops, who patrol the third-largest city in Massachusetts, have made headlines in recent years, and not for good reasons.  

Last year, 14 Springfield officers were charged for a violent off-duty bar brawl and an ensuing cover-up. The city paid out $885,000 to settle a lawsuit by four men injured in the melee. Five of the officers involved were suspended, but have since been reinstated.

Springfield settled two other excessive force lawsuits last year for $450,000 and $250,000.

In a separate incident last year, a jury convicted another Springfield officer on charges of official misconduct and battery for beating a man.

Local news outlet WAMC also reported last year on an investigation by the Hampden District Attorney Office into two incidents where video evidence appeared to contradict written police reports:

In one, a desk officer grabs a man around the throat and wrestles with him in the lobby of police headquarters.  The man says he was disputing a parking ticket and denies doing anything to warrant the violent response.

The prosecutor's office is also investigating the arrest of a Springfield high school student. Security video shows a school resource officer suddenly grab the male student by the neck as they pass each other in a hallway.

In 2017, a longtime Springfield police detective was charged with stealing $400,000 in cash from the department's evidence room. He died of an apparent suicide the day he was scheduled to plead guilty.

The Justice Department's investigation of the Springfield Police Department is notable because it is, so far, the only probe of an entire police department launched by the Justice Department under Trump.

The Obama administration launched a record number of so-called "pattern or practice" investigations into systemic civil rights violations by police departments, including in Baltimore, Chicago, and Ferguson, Missouri

However, the Trump Justice Department, especially under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, backed away from the aggressive use of these investigations. Sessions said he never read the Justice Department's scathing report on civil rights violations by the Chicago Police Department, but he nevertheless said such investigations unfairly maligned whole police departments and improperly used the power of the federal government to coerce municipal governments into court-enforced settlements, called "consent decrees."

U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said in a Justice Department press release that the Springfield Police Department and the city "have fully cooperated with this investigation and have made clear their commitment to genuine reform."

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  1. Don’t worry, Massachusetts people of color, the Democrats will protect you just as well as they do their constituents in Baltimore and Chicago.

    1. You mean they should rely on Republicans like Session or Barr?
      The only thing that seems to get any police reform is consent decrees and well, Sessions and Barr pretty much sank those.

      1. No. I mean that Democrats have been promising reforms in education, employment, law enforcement, etc. for decades, and then forgetting them the day after the election.

        1. So it’s the governor’s fault?

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        2. Oh, they’ve made ‘reforms’, but since the reforms very carefully follow A) Social Justice theory and B) a policy of never, ever, weakening the Public Service Unions the Democrats count on for funding the ‘reforms’ consistently fail to accomplish anything useful.

    2. To paraphrase a Southern Comedian’s schitck:

      ‘You know you are a racist when you compare Blacks who are not paid to not kill people, with the security forces whose job it is to not murder people.’

  2. And there was little to no discipline for officers involved in those civil rights violations.

    Nor will there be going forward.

    1. But there will be a whole lot of lip service paid to accountability and discipline. Meaningless symbolic victories for everyone!

      1. Hey, politics and politicians are built on meaningless symbolic victories. No one ever got re-elected by actually solving a real problem.

        1. Strong letter to follow!

    2. Until the power of the Police Unions is broken.

  3. It’s about time! That department has been troubled for a very long time — decades….

    1. When I was in high school, I took a trip there to visit Western New England College. The only bad things with WNEC were the price, and the city it was in.

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  4. The Justice Department report found that officers in the Springfield Police Department’s Narcotic Bureau “regularly punch subjects in the head and neck area without legal justification,” resulting in a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional excessive force under the Fourth Amendment.

    There’s only 1 solution to this – Riots Peaceful protests in Springfield, culminating in burning down the NBA Hall Of Fame.

    1. Can’t we just skip to burning down the NBA Hall of Fame? IMHO the NBA isn’t real basketball anyways.

  5. My favorite fantasy solution for these things is (assuming other fantasies that actually hold them accountable) is that they get the same treatment back; and of course, they can negotiate to avoid some or all of the retribution. If it were me, would I want lots of cash? Would I waive some of the cash for them to spend a day in stocks or pillories? Maybe it would just be a lot more fun to blacken their eyes and bloody their nose, make them limp for a few days, send them to the hospital. I think the best part would be holding off for some random time, then hauling them out of their squad car or office at a time of my choosing, maybe at their kid’s birthday party or wedding anniversary, maybe just before he is to leave on an expensive vacation …. I could think of lots of ways to have fun with it.

    1. Kick in the pigs’ door, hold the family down on the living room floor at gunpoint while you destroy the house and scream obscenities at the wife and as you leave, shoot the dog in front of the kids.

      Then let them go. If they complain, rinse and repeat as needed.

      Should solve the problem.

    2. Break the Police Unions, require body cam evidence to back up all “use of force” narratives (and make it the legal presumption that, absent strong evidence to the contrary, if there is no video corroboration the cops are lying), kill asset forfeiture.

      That would be one hell of a start.

  6. how is a parent supposed to feel safe at the Basketball Hall of Fame if the Springfield cops are dirty?

    1. you just discovered why I never go there. Simple solution.

  7. Justice Department Finds Massachusetts Drug Squad Regularly Uses Excessive Force and Covers It Up

    UNPOSSIBLE!

  8. LOL! ‘Vice Cops Are Thugs’ is not exactly a stunning discovery. Their entire job is protecting people from themselves. I suspect their ranks are filled mostly with older brothers.

  9. The Obama administration launched a record number of so-called “pattern or practice” investigations into systemic civil rights violations by police departments, including in Baltimore, Chicago, and Ferguson, Missouri.

    However, the Trump Justice Department, especially under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, backed away from the aggressive use of these investigations.

    And the Trump DOJ will do the same thing the Obama DOJ did in the majority of the cases it investigated.

    Issue a sternly worded report scolding the department for decades of endemic civil rights violations, then promptly forget the whole thing as soon as the ink on the report is dry.

  10. It’s about time! That department has been troubled for a very long time — decades….

  11. The report found it was “not uncommon for Narcotics Bureau officers to write false or incomplete narratives that justify their uses of force.”

    See?
    Cops in America can be just as violent and corrupt as those in Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union.
    It just takes a little practice, time and patience.

  12. The report found it was “not uncommon for Narcotics Bureau officers to write false or incomplete narratives that justify their uses of force.”

    You don’t say.

  13. Justice, shmustice. The union knows they did nothing wrong.

    They’re still paying their dues, right?

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  15. Personally I want to take all the violent asshole cops and all the violent asshole BLM types and lock them in the same room together for at least 24 hours. Repeat as necessary.

  16. “…And there was little to no discipline for officers involved in those civil rights violations…”

    That’s because the police corpse rots from the head down. Fire the chief, the deputy chief, anybody who was in a position to affect change but didn’t. Getting rid of toxic police culture of impunity takes big moves, because the culture can absorb and survive minor dings like the firing a few officers. Their replacements will just adapt the culture and you’ll be right back where you started. And if the mayor won’t do it, then the voters need to fire the mayor.

  17. Police brutality and excessive use of force will not ehd until a few driving factors are eliminated.

    Start with “civil asset forfeiture”. That will take the llion’s share of motivation out of a lot of opolice action.

    Repeal the entire Controlled Substances Act. Nearly ALL police “contact” is because of indicated, or suspected, or imagined, or manufactured (lies, as in the Houston raid that murdered the middle aged non-drug dealer couple) “drug cases”. If NO drugs were illegal, the criminal element involved would vapourise. There would go the motivatioin to make those huge busts, beat up a few suspected or imagined or actual toughs, lie about it, then skate when the bodycam footage somehow never survived the aftermath of the “incident”.

    End the police unions and “benevolent socisties” masquerading as unions. The coppers are now accountable to their union schmucks, and their Big Bux., End that, and the coppers will only have left their employers, that’s you and I, to whom they must give account. Watch their behaviour change almost overnight when they realise they are now accountable to.. the PEOPLE they SERVE and PROTECT. Think they’ll keep shooting the family dog, wiping marijuana residue on a guy’s car when he’s in the loo at a rest stop, then “happen” to figure out a reeason to “contact” him five miles down the road, drag the drug dog *(imagine that, he’s just five minutes away, just hang tight for a a few….) . who will surely “hit” on that left front fender just ahead of the passenger door…. search now “justified,” they WILL find… SOMETHING and hav e an “excuse” to beat up a few folks when they cna’t find it. Andd the police union/fraternal organisation will back them up all the way.

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