Springfield Police Supt. Larry Akers was sworn into office at a ceremony on April 10 at Symphony Hall.
Photo credit: Focus Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — A packed crowd at Symphony Hall, including a wide representation of community members, government and religious leaders, law enforcement and supporters were on hand to witness the swearing in ceremony for Lawrence E. “Larry” Akers as the city of Springfield’s first Black police superintendent.

The April 10 gathering was introduced by Springfield political consultant Anthony Cignoli who opened the ceremony with Big Red Drumline from Libertas Academy Charter School and the Springfield Police Honor Guard overseeing the posting of the colors in the room.

Akers, a 38-year veteran of the department, was selected in January by Mayor Domenic Sarno to succeed now-retired Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood, who served 45 years with department.

“He does this at a cost and a premium,” Cignoli told those in attendance. “The job is hard, but he was ready to retire and the call came and he’s answered the call.”

Following a blessing by Reverend Ramon Arce, Sarno praised Akers and noted the historical element to his selection.

“Any time you’re the first, that needs to be acknowledged because it sends a message to those who are behind you who are looking to aspire to move upward and onward that you can and will do it, Sarno said. “It’s important to recognize that my administration has had a number of firsts here in the city of Springfield when it’s come to leadership positions that now Superintendent Larry Akers becomes the first African American top cop in the City of Springfield’s history.”

Sarno emphasized however that “skin color, creed, color or background did not come into play, this young man is the best individual for the job, period.”

Sarno went on to praise Akers’ professionalism and street command abilities and the respect of the rank and file and the community.

Remarks from Springfield City Counselors Melvin Edwards, Lavar Click-Bruce were followed by comments from Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi and state Rep. Bud L. Williams (D-Springfield) before Clapprood congratulated Akers.

Clapprood told Akers she was proud of him and was confident he would do well in the role she served in since 2019.

“You have the three elements that will make you very successful in this job,” she told Akers.” You have the instincts because you’ve been around, you have the experience because you’ve been through it and you have the common sense to know when to do things and when not to, so you will be fine, believe me.”

After taking the oath of his office and being officially sworn in by City Solicitor John Payne Jr., Mary Akers pinned on her husband’s badge and offered her personal reflection on his time with the department, the challenges he faced and his historic rise to the top job, something she said Larry Akers was not always able to envision, noting that particularly for people of color, policing came with low pay and rampant disrespect both from the department as well as the community.

After he was Larry Akers called the occasion, “somewhat surreal, because I’m just a guy, I’m just a guy who grew up in the city of Springfield, in the Winchester Square section of the city.”

As did his wife before him, Akers spoke about his late father, Charles who was also a Springfield Police Officer, something he didn’t necessarily want for his son because of the burden of being a Black officer at the time.

Along with a host of people and organizations, Akers thanked his family for being the reason he stuck with the profession and offered his appreciation to Sarno.

“This is a historical day for the Springfield Police department and the city and I’m proud to be here in the presence of all my family and all of you,” he said. “When I am long gone, my children and my grandchildren will forever remember this day in the city of Springfield.”

Akers acknowledged the federal consent decree the department is currently under and said many of the changes listed in the decree were already in motion while the department had been lagging behind in their implementation. He spoke specifically to transparency, recordkeeping and the rewriting of the department’s use of force policy.

“I will continue to do whatever possible to assist the Department of Justice and its representatives to move this department forward and to continue to gain the trust of our community,” he said.

He also pledged fairness, respect and unwavering support to the men and women of the department.
Akers thanked the members of the state delegation in attendance for their support and asked that they stand with him against the hurdle of the state Home Rule Petition that would require him to retire when he turns 65 years old in December.

“I need time to finish what I’m starting,” Akers said. “And with your help, you can get me over the finish line.”

Following the recorded sounds of glass breaking in the room, Akers told the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, that sound that you just heard is the glass ceiling crashing down in the lobby of the Springfield Police Department.”

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