By an overwhelming margin, Springfield police officers have said that they have no confidence in Chief Kenny Winslow.
“Police officer morale over the last few years has gotten so low that action needed to be taken,” wrote Grant Barksdale, president of Police Benevolent and Protective Association No. 5 in a memo to media outlets sent Monday afternoon.
More than 80 percent of the city’s officers cast ballots in the no-confidence vote, according to the union, and 89 percent of those who voted said they had no confidence in the chief. Neither Winslow nor Mayor Jim Langfelder could immediately be reached for comment.
“It’s not one thing, it’s a culmination of numerous things,” Barksdale said in an interview. “It’s a continued course of conduct.”
Barksdale said a contract impasse that resulted in binding arbitration did not affect the union’s opinion of Winslow. Without going into specifics, Barksdale said that the union has attempted to bring up concerns with Langfelder, but to no avail. He also said that the mayor, the last line of appeal in formal grievances, has failed to respond to appeals on matters which Barksdale described as “ongoing violations of our collective bargaining agreement.”
“Since I’ve taken over, there have been numerous meetings with the chief and his staff, numerous grievances,” said Barksdale, who became union president 16 months ago. “Nothing has changed. … The mayor has never given us a response to our grievances. He never wrote a written response. Obviously, it’s disheartening.”
How does the union feel about the mayor?
“I don’t know that we have any issues with Mayor Langfelder at this juncture,” answered Barksdale, who wouldn't say whether Winslow should be fired. “The biggest thing that we want is a change in the labor climate. It makes no difference whether it’s with Chief Winslow or another chief.”
Winslow was named chief in 2013 by former Mayor Mike Houston after former chief Robert Williams resigned amid controversy over the department shredding internal affairs files had been requested under the state Freedom of Information Act.
Barksdale acknowledged that officers are upset by Winslow’s handling of a case involving former officer Samuel Rosario, who was fired in May after a February altercation with a man while on duty.
“They’re not happy about it,” Barksdale said.
The department released a video of the altercation showing Rosario challenging Robert Humes, whose mother had called police over a dispute with her daughter, to a fight and then engaging in fisticuffs. But the city did not release a video that showed Humes warmly greeting Rosario when the officer returned to the scene and apologized. “You’ve always got respect down here,” Humes told the officer. The department also has not released a video that shows Humes telling command-level officers that Rosario deserved a promotion when officers paid yet another visit to photograph injuries that Humes suffered during the altercation.
Rosario, who told department investigators that he'd reached a "boiling point," was immediately suspended without pay before being fired in May. He faces charges of official misconduct and battery. A trial is set for January.
Barksdale said that Rosario should have been relieved of duty and that the case may well have played out the way it did no matter what. But officers, he said, are upset by the way Winslow handled the aftermath, including the department’s failure to release videos showing Humes praising Rosario in the aftermath of the altercation.
“I feel they should have released all three (videos),” Barksdale said. “They showed the complete story. … He (Rosario) should have been relieved. I don’t know if we want to go into too many details. I think the end result should have been the same. I think it could have been handled better. I think that is a case that people are upset about.”
How can the labor climate be improved?
“That’s going to be for the mayor to determine, how that’s gong to be taken care of,” Barksdale said. “We’ve been doing the same thing over and over. We’re not going to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. That’s what backed us into this corner.”
Contact Bruce Rushton at email@example.com.