DOJ follows Worcester PD’s investigation with Springfield (MA) PD consent decree

from I-guess-no-need-to-buy-a-flight-home department

Two years ago, the DOJ launched an investigation into the Springfield, Massachusetts police department, targeting its troubled narcotics unit. Like many other drug-focused units, the Springfield narcotics unit was staffed with officers who routinely engaged in rights violations.

Bureau of Narcotics officers are routinely punched in the head and neck without legal justification. The regular reliance on punches during arrests and other encounters that we discovered during our investigation indicates a tendency to use force impulsively rather than tactically, and as part of a command-and-control approach rather than using force only as needed. To respond to a concrete threat.


Contrary to law, SPD policy, and national standards, Narcotics Bureau officers routinely resort to punching subjects in the head with a closed fist as an immediate response to resistance rather than attempting to obtain compliance through other less severe forms of force. Of all 84 Narcotics Bureau prisoner injury files from 2013 to 2019, roughly 19% of force-on-force incidents involved punches to the head, and approximately 8% involved head injuries from other forms of additional head strikes. In a significant number of cases such force was unjustified.

This investigation expanded to cover the remainder of the Springfield PD, which the DOJ reasonably believed also contained the problematic officer. Two years later, the DOJ enforced a consent decree aimed at bringing the PD back into line with the Constitution. Whether this will change the way the PD handles bad cops is anyone’s guess, but the decision to rebrand the PD’s narcotics unit as the “Firearms Investigations Unit” suggests it won’t be the last time the DOJ visits Springfield.

It’s not just a Springfield problem. This is a Massachusetts problem. More to the point, this is a law enforcement issue. If there’s a silver lining, this new Massachusetts police department investigation (just months apart from the Springfield investigation) suggests DOJ investigators never got a chance to board the flight out of state, possibly saving taxpayers some cash.

Months after the Justice Department ended a massive investigation into police brutality in Springfield, the Bay State’s third-largest city, it opened a new one Tuesday in its second-largest city, Worcester.

In addition to studying what it calls a pattern or excessive use of force by Worcester police, the department said Tuesday it will investigate whether discriminatory use was based on race and gender.

Worcester PD has a problem. The DOJ did not provide many specifics in the announcement of this investigation, but there is plenty of information that fills in the gaps in the DOJ’s vague description.

Perhaps one of the most innocent accusations was that an officer, Rodrigo Oliveira, regularly threw loud, rowdy and crowded parties at his home – parties where guests roamed the streets disturbing people and neighbors, hoping for a peaceful night’s rest, watched as Oliveira and his guests got wasted. Those plans go awry. But, if you’re not willing to police the little things internally, you’re less likely to be willing to hold officers accountable for the rights they violate while on the clock.

If the problem continues, the lieutenant instructs neighbors to call the police. He warned dispatch that a supervisor should always respond to Oliveira’s address for future calls.

“Officer Oliveira stated that he understood,” the internal affairs report said.

In January 2020, the report concluded that Oliveira was “cleared” of charges of “incivility” and “awareness of the activity”.

However, records show teams and 911 calls continued, even after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. An incident history at Oliveira’s address listed eight different “loud party” calls after an internal investigation.

Then there’s the wrongful arrest case, filed by Dana Gall after Worcester police decided he fit the description, even though he didn’t.

Witnesses at the scene described the perpetrator as a thin, light-skinned or white man, about 5 feet, 7 inches (1.7 m) tall, with a dark complexion, weighing 200 pounds (91 kilograms) and 5 feet, 10 inches (1.8 m) tall. , his lawyers Dr.


According to the lawsuit filed by Debra Lowy and Mark Reyes, investigators coerced some people — none of whom were actually at the scene of the stabbing — into saying that the suspect’s grainy surveillance video looked like poop.

Also, DNA from the victim’s body and clothing was compared to Gaul’s DNA, but was not a match, according to his lawyers. Gall did not know Rose and was nowhere near the scene of the stabbing, his lawyers said.

It also appears the city is willing to run interference for the PD to hide evidence of wrongdoing from public records requesters.

A judge has fired Worcester for its illegal three-year campaign to withhold records of police misconduct from local newspapers, writing in a recent ruling that a city lawyer tried to mislead the court and “did not act in good faith.”

Worcester Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker ordered the city to pay $101,000 to cover her legal fees for the Papers, Telegram and Gazette. To hold the city accountable for its misconduct, he also ordered $5,000 in punitive damages.

It’s the third time in two decades the city has taken the city to court over the issue of police-misconduct records—and the third time the newspaper has succeeded.

Three times. If you want some “pattern and practice” evidence, this string of lawsuits over PD opacity should provide the DOJ with some investigative ammunition.

Here’s more: City residents on the hook for $8 million settlement in yet another wrongful conviction lawsuit. It won’t give back 16 years of freedom to a wrongfully accused person, but it’s a start.

A jury has awarded Worcester’s Natale Cosenza $8 million and $30,000 in punitive damages in a lawsuit involving two Worcester police Sgt..

The jury found that Sergeant Kerry Hazelhurst concealed evidence in the case and fabricated evidence that led to Cosenza’s conviction. The jury also found that Hazelhurst and Sergeant John Doherty conspired to conceal and falsify evidence. Six others from the Worcester Police Department were removed from the original charges before trial.

Cosenza served 16 years in prison for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and armed robbery of a woman before being released in 2016.

More “pattern and practice” evidence: This case involved an officer who contributed to another wrongful conviction.

Doherty was one of the interrogators who in 2008 extracted a confession from the then 16-year-old Nga Trung. Truong spent three years in prison awaiting trial before a judge determined the confession was “the product of deception, fraud and implied promises to a frightened person.” Kishore,” according to WBUR. The City of Worcester settled that lawsuit in 2016 for $2.1 million.

Worcester PD has filed dozens of civil rights lawsuits and forced residents to pay millions in settlements. This history of abuse prompted residents to petition the DOJ to investigate the department. Whether the petition was helpful in DOJ’s investigation is unknown, but the end result is a department that has ceded control to its officers, no matter how much harm they do, while federal investigators have to explain why its workforce is so appallingly civil.

This investigation is still years away from completion. And it will likely be another half decade before the DOJ secures a consent decree that has a slim chance of actually reforming the Worcester PD. But, for now, Worcester PD is making national headlines for all the wrong reasons. Hopefully, this will create the heat and friction needed to move the department toward a better relationship with those it serves and increased respect for their rights.

Filed Under: Consent Decree, Dose, Massachusetts, Police, Springfield, Worcester