The only Justice Department probe of a police department since President Donald Trump took office has found that narcotics unit officers in Springfield, Massachusetts, “repeatedly punch individuals in the face unnecessarily” and use “excessive force without accountability.”
According to a 28-page report by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the officers did so “in part because they escalate encounters with civilians too quickly, and resort to unreasonable takedown maneuvers that, like head strikes, could reasonably be expected to cause head injuries.”
The Justice Department investigation, based on a review of more than 114,000 pages of Springfield Police Department files and numerous interviews, found there was reasonable cause to believe that Springfield narcotics unit officers engage “in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Under former President Barack Obama, the Justice Department investigated a number of police departments that engaged in unconstitutional policing. But the Trump administration has almost entirely abandoned broader investigations of policing practices. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions believed that probing unconstitutional conduct by police departments hurt officer morale, and Attorney General William Barr has continued DOJ’s pattern of avoiding investigations that identify patterns of abuse and broader problems within police department cultures.
The Springfield investigation, first announced in April 2018, found a number of incidents of “untruthful reporting” by officers, which DOJ said “indicate that it is not uncommon for Narcotics Bureau officers to write false or incomplete narratives that justify their uses of force.”
In one instance, involving a suspect identified as F.D., two narcotics bureau officers ― including a supervisor ― claimed that they had pulled F.D. out of the car after he fled from...