In June 2020, the ACLU of Massachusetts, together with WilmerHale, filed a lawsuit against the City of Springfield demanding information about the Springfield Police Department (SPD) and its racially discriminatory policing patterns and practices.
Following a series of high-profile Springfield events—including the grand jury indictment in 2019 of 14 current and former SPD officers following the assault of four Black men at a local bar—the ACLU of Massachusetts submitted two separate public records requests to the City. More than one year later, the City had not produced a substantive response to the ACLU’s request for demographic data about its police department’s interactions with residents. In addition, the City withheld documents responsive to the ACLU’s second request.
A study commissioned by the Massachusetts Legislature found that SPD engaged in a pattern of racial profiling over a period of at least two years. In the years following the study, the misconduct of SPD officers and the department itself has triggered a federal investigation, criminal indictments, civil lawsuits, and increasing national and local media scrutiny.
According to the ACLU lawsuit, the withheld records are critically important to the public’s ability to understand how SPD operates in its community and interacts with people in the city. The request includes documents concerning police interactions with residents and materials governing the department’s operations.