Police dept charged with abuse overhaul narcotics unit

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — The police department in Massachusetts' third-largest city announced an overhaul of its narcotics unit and other policy changes two months after a federal investigation found its officers routinely used excessive force without consequences.

The Springfield Police Department has restaffed its narcotics unit, outfitted more than half its officers with body cameras and changed how it asks officers to report injuries that happen during arrests, the Springfield Republican reported Thursday.

Three-hundred and forty of 500 officers on the force are now wearing body cameras, the newspaper reported.

Springfield officers started being trained on body cameras before the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice released the results of an investigation into the narcotics unit in July.

The investigation found the plainclothes officers who arrest drug suspects “engage in a pattern or practice of excessive force” in violation of the Constitution without accountability. Officers regularly struck people in the head when making arrests even when they did not pose a threat, the report found.

The city has also retained a former judge as an adviser and a consulting group to address concerns raised by the investigation.

“I want to again reiterate that what has occurred in the past should not have happened,” Mayor Domenic Sarno said Thursday. “Our goal is to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”