Community Safety Working Group Hears Recommendations For Civilian Responder Agency

Photo: Daigle Law Group. Creative Commons

Report On The Meeting Of The Community Safety Working Group (CSWG), October 14, 2021

The meeting was held on Zoom and was recorded. The recording can be viewed here.

LEAP Presentation
The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) presented their recommendations on Amherst Police Department (APD) policies (CSWG meeting packet pages 16-99) regarding use of force, consent searches, and police contracts in addition to explaining how the Massachusetts Police Reform Bill will change policies locally and statewide. The report is not final and is a working document. A final version of their work will be in the CSWG report for Part B of their charge. Their first report thoroughly explains the existing APD policies that they believe need to be rewritten to reflect equity and to elevate community trust. 

CSWG questions/recommendations before LEAP turns in a final document:

  • Members requested an executive summary be added to the report to simplify reading for the public.
  • Actionable steps be added to reform in policy regarding consent searches, record sunset setting, etc.

CRESS Implementation Follow-Up
Attached in the 10/14 packet is a copy of a preliminary scan of safety service calls made to APD from 2019 (pre-pandemic)  that could be diverted to the Community Responders For Equity Safety and Service (CRESS) program. In LEAP’s preliminary analysis you will see an estimated 35% of citizen initiated calls could be answered by CRESS. Despite this, LEAP recommends that such a program does not need to be 24/7 due to a small number of calls coming in between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. LEAP’s preliminary report suggested CRESS start with two 8-hour shifts or two 10-hour shifts and an on-call person to answer calls when there are no teams on duty. 

CSWG members expressed to the CRESS implementation team that this program being 24/7 is critical to building community trust, citing that there are likely slow times at the Fire Department and Police Department but that does not stop their capacity to function 24/7.

The CRESS Director position has been written twice with the goal of a comparable salary to other department heads in community safety. The CRESS Director position was originally rated by the municipality rating system at a level 6. Implementation team members rewrote the description to embody the full scope of work this position would require and the position is now being re-rated. CSWG members urged members on the implementation team to continue to advocate for a Level 8 minimum to recruit someone with the unique skill set envisioned. 

Resident Oversight Board
In the 10/14 packet you will see the bargained language around a conversation that took place with the two CSWG Co-Chairs (Ellisha Walker and Brianna Owen), CSWG member Russ Vernon-Jones, Town Manager Paul Bockelman, and Chief of Police Scott Livingstone regarding the Resident Oversight Board (ROB). Group members strongly disagreed with taking out language in the proposal that excluded former law enforcement from membership on the board despite the Town Manager’s promise to not appoint such people to the ROB. CSWG members urged Walker, Owen, and Vernon-Jones to remember in the future there is no promise of who will be in these positions of power and it is critical that this group be an entity that the community trusts and to which it can speak freely, and that be established in the language. 

Community Safety and Social Justice Committee

Discussion tabled for next week. 

Next meeting date: Thursday October 21, 2021 

Standing topics will include an editorial as our work ends and discussion about our successor committee. 

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