SPRINGFIELD — People attending the annual observation of Dr. Martin Luther King Day received a surprise announcement from Mayor Domenic Sarno that Deputy Chief Larry Akers will be the next police superintendent for the city, succeeding Cheryl Clapprood upon her retirement later this spring. He will become the first Black head of the Springfield Police Department in the city’s history.

Standing alongside Sarno, State Reps. Bud Williams (D-Springfield) and Carlos Gonzalez (D-Springfield) and state Sen. Adam Gomez (D-Springfield), Ackers thanked Sarno for the confidence he has shown in him. He added he was “honored and humbled to be given this opportunity to be your next superintendent of the Springfield Police Department.”

Akers explained to Reminder Publishing the timing of the announcement by the mayor had not yet been firmed up and the announcement at the event was a surprise.

Akers has had a 38-year career with the department including overseeing the city’s Metro Unit; being a supervisor in the Special Victims Unit and being a member of the Traffic and Motorcycle Unit. He was the first supervisor for the Gaming Enforcement Unit.

He is a graduate of the High School of Commerce, earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is a recipient of the Frank Murphy Medal of Valor.

In a written statement Sarno said, “Always the gentleman, a good man, good cop and a good leader. I have the utmost confidence in his ability to continue to lead our brave and dedicated men and women of the Springfield Police Department forward for the betterment of our community. I have witnessed firsthand and I am very impressed with Deputy Chief Akers street command presence dealing with some very difficult situations and just as important his compassion and empathy he exhibits to all in our community. He has been an integral part of my community stakeholder’s roundtable team meetings and has the respect of the rank and file under his command. This is important so that we can have a smooth transition, especially as we continue to implement Police Superintendent Clapprood and DOJ’s initiatives and reforms.”

Asked to speak at the MLK event, he said, “I’m just a guy from the city. I didn’t expect this. I’m not a politician. I don’t know how to do that. I’m just a guy, but I’m going to be here to fight for all the people in the city of Springfield. Mr. Mayor, I want to thank you for your leadership and your fortitude to cross over boundaries that in the past would have made this honor unobtainable for someone like myself. Thank you very much for being that change agent in the city of Springfield at such a crucial time.”

He thanked his family, who were also in attendance, and noted that “in the past 38 years you’ve played a part in this and made me proud to be a police officer.”

Akers especially thanked his wife Mary and said, “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be standing up here right now. She stood by my side through all my trying times; when times came and I was starting to stray and maybe not look at things and stay focused as I should she stepped behind me and put that foot where it needed to be.”

He pledged to make “a positive difference in the lives all the residents of Springfield and the people we serve — I promise you.”

Akers said that he is 64 and in order to serve as superintendent past this December the mandatory retirement age is 65 — he will need a Home Rule legislation. The City Council must approve it and then Williams will speak on behalf the bill at the Statehouse.

In terms of a transition, Akers said Clapprood will be retiring sometime in April and until that time, in addition of his current duties, he expects to be involved in attending meetings that will make for a smooth transition.

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