Springfield City Councilors were provided an update during their Monday night meeting on the investigation into the city Police Department’s use of force. The investigation is taking place after police officers were videotaped hitting Black Unity protesters in July.
In videos taken during the July 29 protest, officers are shown hitting unarmed protesters with batons, using tasers, as well as punching at least two protesters in the head and neck.
Many of the city council members agreed they were “disappointed” by the encounter with SPD that night, and want to be as transparent as possible.
Council member Steve Moe started the discussion when he asked how far the city has gotten with the investigation.
“We had that ugly experience in July,” said Moe. “I'm appalled at that. I support Black lives, I support the right to protest. I support all minorities, and I never expect to see behavior [like that]. It was videotaped, it was disappointing and disgusting. We were told an unbiased investigator from outside the area would investigate and reveal exactly what happened. I don't know where that is. I'd like to see that moving along and at least get that solved.”
City Manager Nancy Newton said the city attorney's office is in the process of finalizing a contract with an outside investigator. She did not specify who the investigator is, but provided some information on his previous experience.
“This independent investigator has a background in law enforcement, but also now does consulting on use of force and crowd management,” said Newton. “He was involved with doing an after-incident report in Ferguson, Missouri—just to give you some context of his breadth of experience.”
City Attorney Mary Bridget Smith said they are waiting for the contract to be signed within the next few days, allowing the investigation to be conducted through January 2021.
She also said a public input aspect of the contract has been left open, “depending on how the report goes.”
“He's requested a long list of materials and information to review,” said Smith. “Then he'll draft a written report that the council and the public will see. And then he also is under contract to do either—depending on COVID restrictions or how the city manager and the council want to approach it—some kind of community input or meeting or information [session].”
After receiving many calls and emails from concerned community members, Newton said she had a conversation with the investigator about having an online forum so people can provide their input as he conducts his investigation.
“We kind of thought it might be appropriate to do like a large zoom call or something along that nature where people could either submit questions in writing, or he could talk about his philosophy,” said Newton. “Nothing that would necessarily detract at all from the investigation, but that people could be heard and know that he is looking at every potential avenue in this investigation.”