The Community Safety Working Group (CSWG), with the support of Town Manager Paul Bockelman, has proposed a new standing committee to succeed them and to continue their work after their charge expires on November 1. The suggested name for the proposed committee is the Community Safety and Social Justice Committee (CSSJC). Discussion of the proposal which can be read here, is on the agenda for the Town Council meeting on Monday, September 27.
The proposed committee would be appointed by the town manager and consist of seven voting members and one liaison from town staff. The specified composition would require at least five members to be BIPOC residents of Amherst including, in the committee’s first iteration, two current members of the CSWG, and would seek to maximize economic diversity among the members. The town manager would be assisted in making appointments by a selection committee, appointed by the town manager and made up of diverse residents who have social justice/diversity, equity and inclusion experience.
The proposed committee charge is as follows:
- To advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and community safety in Amherst.
- To provide advice and support to all town government entities, employees, officials, and committee members to fully realize the “Resolution Affirming The Town of Amherst’s Commitment to End Structural Racism and Achieve Racial Equity for Black Residents” adopted by the Town Council, December 2020.
- To support all members of the Amherst community to understand and enjoy the benefits of a community that is truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive of all.
- To act as a voice to marginalized and underrepresented residents.
The proposal also specifies that at least two members of the CSSJC will serve on the implementation team charged with putting in place CSWG’s six recommendations, four of which have received a commitment for funding from the town.
1a. Creation of A Community Responders for Equity, Safety, and Service (CRESS) program as an alternative to provide public safety services in situations that do not involve violence or serious crime.
1b.Creation of a civilian department or agency to manage traffic issues and to end most traffic stops by the police.
2.Creation of a Resident Oversight Board that will provide oversight for the Amherst Police Department and for the CRESS program.
3.Creation of a Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and the hiring of a full time DEI director.
4.Creation of a Youth Empowerment Center to provide a range of activities such as theatre, arts, fitness classes, job readiness, and academic support.
5 Creation of a BIPOC Cultural Center to provide support, promote, and celebrate BIPOC cultures, holidays, festivals and showcase a BIPOC and to support BIPOC families.
6. Decreasing the size of the Amherst police department to reduce the over-policing of BIPOC communities that was consistently identified by Amherst community members.
Funding has been provided for recommendations 1-4. The remaining recommendations may be taken up by the successor committee or the new DEI.
The CSWG was formed created in September of 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and subsequent national protests. It was charged with
- making recommendations on alternative ways of providing public safety services to the community
- making recommendations on reforms to the current organizational and oversight structures of the Amherst Police Department.
Their complete charge can be read here. Their report on alternative public safety options for Amherst can be read here.
Their final report to the Town Council is slated to be presented at the council’s meeting on October 18. In recent months, members of the CSWG have voiced frustration that they have not been given sufficient time to complete their work and have raised concerns that the work will not be continued once the committee is dissolved. And they have commented throughout their tenure that their work was being hindered by the Town Council and town manager and preventing them from fully implementing their recommendations.(for examples, see here, here, here and here.)