People of color in Springfield, MA have known about the pattern and practice of targeted brutality evinced by the Springfield Police Department since long before a round of indictments by the MA Attorney General’s Office and a longform report by the U.S. Department of Justice. Over decades of police violence and abuse, Spingfield’s residents of color have protested, organized, and demanded systemic change. Yet the crisis and culture of violence and racism within policing and prosecution in Springfield have not changed–and have never been fully investigated or disclosed to people who have been arrested and charged.
On May 28, 2021, on behalf of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP and the Pioneer Valley Proejct, we filed a letter in the case Graham v. District Attorney for Hampden County, urging the Supreme Judicial Court to allow a petition filed by the ACLU of Massachusetts and the Committee for Public Counsel Services which would initiate an independent investigation. The case is scheduled for a hearing on July 14th at 3:00 PM.
In the words of Pioneer Valley Project member Michael Anderson, now 48 years old:
The broken relationship between our community and the Springfield Police Department is nothing new. The violence and brutality that the Black and Latin people have experienced at the hands of this system has been a staple in our community for many, many decades.
As a child I would hear the stories of police misconduct and I was always told that it could be me. Being a young teenager it was scary because I knew I had to be home before the street lights came on…not because of my mother’s curfew, but I didn’t want to be caught by the cops.
I found myself in this situation more times than I wanted. On one occasion I was walking with a few friends and the police pulled up and asked, “Where are you guys headed?!” That led to me being punched in the stomach and chest a few times, thrown into a police cruiser, and eventually left in the middle of Blunt Park. Just imagine the feeling, the fear, and the trauma that experience gives you. It becomes engrained in your soul. All I could think of was my mom saying, “Just get home safe!” My friends and I made it into a game…Beat the police home before they beat you!! This is what the reality is for us in our community. This is what this system has created in our community. A level of distrust and unsavory memories that continue to haunt us. I will not say it’s all police officers, but this system protects the ones that brutalize and victimize the citizens of this community.
Read our letter: