Amherst Police Alternative Records Suggest Responders Answered Three Calls In Two and a Half Months

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The police alternative department in Amherst has records of three 911 calls during a 78-day period during this past winter despite having a director, an administrative assistant, and eight full-time responders costing about $641,520.

A staff member for CRESS – which stands for Community Responders for Equity, Safety, and Service – told a town board that she wasn’t sure if that call figure for the time between December 18, 2023 and March 4, 2024 is accurate.

“Three seemed very low to me, and it seemed kind of disappointing, honestly,” said Allegra Clark, co-chairman of the Amherst Community Safety and Social Justice Committee, a town board that advises the elected town council, during a public meeting Thursday, April 11. “So I think any clarification on that would be helpful.”

Committee members also expressed disappointment with having to file a public records request in order to get data from the town department the committee oversees, and then not getting all the data the committee requested.

Debora Ferreira, co-chairman of the Amherst Community Safety and Social Justice Committee, said the committee made a public records request to see what CRESS has been doing for the past two years. CRESS began operations in September 2022.

“This is the information that we got. And then, I guess, they can charge for the information. So I guess, in order for us to get any other information, then we’d have to pay over $600. I guess that’s what the bill is, that they sent me. Which obviously that’s not going to be doable. But we did get this information,” Ferreira said.

Pamela Nolan Young, the original interim co-director of CRESS and the town’s first director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, said the department in the fall of 2023 switched over to a new way of compiling data, which makes providing accurate information difficult. She also said staff members “are still actually learning, grasping, refining their data collection skill set.”

The $600-plus charge for providing more data would cover the cost of information technology staff going through thousands of pages of data to cull the requested information, Young said.

CRESS responders are providing lunch support for seventh grade at Amherst Middle School, Young confirmed.

Ferreira said she is aware of budget cuts in the Amherst public schools.

“But I don’t know if it is CRESS’s responsibility to be filling in during lunch,” Ferreira said.

Young said responders have not neglected any calls coming into the department because of their assistance at seventh grade lunch.

Young, the interim co-director, plans to give way to CRESS’s new permanent director, Camille Theriaque, who took office earlier this month.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette published a story about the committee meeting on Wednesday, April 17. A video of the committee meeting is on YouTube.

Amherst officials created the town’s police alternative in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white police officer during an arrest in May 2020.

A document produced by the town in May 2021 projected that the police alternative could respond to 20 to 35 percent of the calls officers from the Amherst Police Department were responding to at the time, and thus “Relieve the APD of many calls that don’t require the response of a police officer or armed responder.”

The document also said the police alternative could “Provide responders with skills and experience better matched to the needs of the residents and situations being addressed” and “Build greater trust with all marginalized communities, including the BIPOC community, and function with a heightened awareness of the importance of dismantling systemic racism in Amherst.”

“BIPOC” stands for “black, indigenous, and other people of color.”

CRESS, the town’s police alternative, responds to “Non-violent emergency calls such as:  wellness checks, mental health calls, non-violent school calls, non-trespassed vagrancy, community engagement, public safety assist, and citizen assist,” according to the department’s web site.

The town increased the budget for CRESS by $20,000 this current fiscal year “for overtime and communications expense,” according to the town’s budget document for fiscal year 2024 (which runs from July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024).


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