Incoming Springfield Police Commissioner Stresses Proactive Approach To Crime

Apr 8, 2014

The incoming police commissioner in Springfield, Massachusetts last night made a highly anticipated public presentation of his crime-fighting plans.  It is a series of five strategic objects designed to make the police department more efficient and accountable.

Springfield Police Deputy Chief John Barbieri speaks at a March 19,2014 news conference after Mayor Domenic Sarno announced he would appoint Barbieri to be the next police commissioner effective June 1st.
Credit WAMC

The next police commissioner in Springfield, John Barbieri said  in order to have a more proactive approach to fighting crime he will shift more police officers from plain clothes investigative divisions to patrolling the neighborhoods in uniform, and he promised to improve response times by using real-time crime data analysis.

" We'll work to make the department more rapidly responsive to crime and quality of life concerns. These five priorities are certainly not the end of work that needs to be done with the police department,but simply the things that need to be done first."

Barbieri outlined his proposed changes to the Springfield Police Department to an audience of about 250 people – about half of whom were public safety officials – in the auditorium of a city middle school.

Barbieri, who is a 26 year veteran of the Springfield police force and is currently a deputy chief, will become commissioner on June 1st.  He is replacing Police Commissioner William Fitchet  who is retiring.  Barbieri was appointed by Mayor Dominic Sarno, who introduced the incoming commissioner for Monday’s presentation.

Just over half of the 429 members of the Springfield police department are currently in the uniformed patrol division. Barbieri said his goal is to increase that to 70 percent.

" We're never going to hit the levels we had during community policing, but if we can get five or six extra officers a shift it gives us a core group to respond to community concerns and long term problems in neighborhoods."

Other changes the next commissioner said he will make include delegating more decision making authority to supervising officers who are on the streets and including them in weekly command staff meetings, building and strengthening relationships  with community groups, and creating a system for public feedback.

As deputy chief, Barbieri has overseen an innovative policing program modeled after counter-insurgency techniques used by the U.S. military in Iraq. It is credited with dramatically reducing gang violence in one neighborhood. As commissioner, Barbieri said he will look to replicate the program in other violence plagued neighborhoods.

" THe model does not intend to eliminate gangs, it is a collaborative effort to reduce harm by having a multi-faceted approach to the gang problem."

Mary Campbell, who lives in the city’s Hungry Hill Neighborhood, said she was impressed by the crime-fighting plan spelled out by the next police commissioner.

" He is very capable and I think he will do a good job."

Archbishop Timothy Paul, president of the Council of Churches of Western Massachusetts, said he believes Barbieri can foster trust between the police and members of the city’s minority communities.

" I can only pray that he can make a difference. He has his work cut out for him, and we will be supporting him."

The next commissioner could get some pushback from the city’s police unions. Joe Gentile, who is president of the patrolman’s union, stopped short of endorsing Barbieri’s full plan.

" We are certainly on board with the idea that changes are  needed. His plan is very aggressive and that is probably a good thing. We want to help and do everything we can to make him successful."

Barbieri said he plans to begin immediately  what he called a  “listening tour”  across the city as part of his transition to police commissioner.