Sarno criticizes the reinstatement of two Springfield police officers

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he was “concerned” about the reinstatement of two of the city’s police officers. The pair were convicted in connection with an off-duty fight outside a city pub in 2015.

On Tuesday, the Springfield Police Commission voted to reinstate officers Christian Cicero and Daniel Billingsley. They were convicted of assault in March and each received suspended sentences for their role in the fight outside Nathan Bill’s bar.

On Wednesday, Sarno issued a press release criticizing the police commission for continuing the hearing despite the absence of two members of the five-member board.

“I am dismayed that this hearing and decision to reinstate these officers was conducted with only three members of the Police Commission present,” Sarno said. “Although they met the requirements for a quorum under their rules and regulations, this serious matter should have been heard before the Board of Police Commissioners is fully seated.”

As for the decision itself to reinstate the civil servants, Sarno was also critical.

“Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood, I and our Springfield Police Department continue to work so hard to strengthen and build trust in the community and, quite simply, this decision undermines our work,” the mayor said.

Sarno’s office pointed out that Cicero and Billingsley still have a long way to go before returning to active duty. They must be certified by the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission. They have to catch up on a lot of training and become familiar with new policies and procedures that have been put in place over the past five years while they have been away from the workplace.

In addition, the city’s legal department will review whether the conditions imposed on officers as part of their suspended sentences prohibit them from returning to active duty. The press release states that one area includes whether they are allowed to carry firearms.

Springfield City Council President Jesse Lederman joined Sarno in criticizing the police commission for acting without the full board present, saying it was “not appropriate or consistent with their stated mission.” Lederman urged Sarno to “review his appointments to that body and determine who allowed them to do so.”

The establishment of the commission itself was the subject of litigation between the Springfield City Council and the mayor. The council twice voted to reinstate the board, but Sarno refused to implement it, insisting the ordinances violated the city charter.

The city council is suing Sarno in 2020. Last February, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of the council.

Since then, Sarno has appointed the five members to the board, but the chairman, Gary Berte, has complained that the board lacks resources. There was also concern that the commissioners do not have a clear idea of ‚Äč‚Äčtheir duties. The city council held a supervisory hearing in October to discuss these issues.

Cicero and Billingsley’s convictions stem from a fight in 2015 in which off-duty officers allegedly beat up four black men outside of Nathan Bill. The victims eventually settled with the city for a total of $885,000.

The attorney general’s office continued to pursue the case and announced in 2019 that it was indicting 14 Springfield officers for their alleged actions during the hand-to-hand combat or for attempting to cover it up. Some of the accused have since been dropped or acquitted. The Republican Cicero and Billingsley are reportedly the only ones convicted so far.