A special committee that is working to identify ways to improve relations between the police and the community in Springfield, Massachusetts is soliciting residents’ opinions through an online survey.
The Springfield Police Community Relations Committee has asked people who have attended its listening sessions around the city to complete the survey. Now, it is available online in an effort to collect data from a larger number of city residents, according to a statement from committee chairman and City Councilor Tom Ashe.
Questions on the survey, available through Survey Planet, include how residents feel generally about safety in the city and specifically about crime in their own neighborhoods. There are also questions about interactions people have had with police officers.
City Council President Orlando Ramos announced the creation of the 15-member committee in February.
" Our goal is to identify ways we can strenghten the relationship between the police department and the community of the city of Springfield. ( The committee) will hold meetings across the city, speak to residents, speak to law enforcement, and make recommendations to the full council and to the mayor's administration as to how we can accomplish that goal," said Ramos.
The committee was appointed in the aftermath of two high profile cases that raised questions about how police misconduct is investigated and punished.
Ramos said he is looking for recommendations from the committee that will create policy or legislation the council can act on.
The ad-hoc panel is made up of two City Councilors, one resident from each of the city’s eight wards, and one appointee each by the Hampden District Attorney, Springfield Police Union, and the Springfield chapter of the NAACP.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Police Commissioner John Barbieri declined to appoint representatives to the committee.
" My concern is that there is some politics involved," Barbieri said. " I am an apolitical person. My goal is public safety."
Barbieri said the department is already pursuing a strategy to improve community relations.
" We do exhaustive outreach to our communities with our beat management meetings," Barbieri said. " We meet in every sector at least once a month to talk about every crime that has occurred in that neighborhood. I am certainly open to conversations about ( community relations)."
The committee’s survey will be available online for a 30-day period that began on September 11. Participation is anonymous.
Ramos, in a press release announcing the online questionnaire, said the committee encourages all residents of Springfield to complete the survey.