Amherst Creates New Departments To Address Racial Equity And Community Safety

Amherst Town Seal. Photo: amherstma.gov

Source: amherstma.gov

The Town of Amherst has created two new departments to advance racial equity and promote community safety. The Town Council approved Town Manager Paul Bockelman’s request to create a Department of Community Responders for Equity, Safety, and Service (CRESS) by unanimous vote.  

The Town Council also voted unanimously to approve Town Manager Paul Bockelman’s request to create the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) which will be staffed by a new full-time director and an assistant director.  

Recruiting for the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, CRESS Director, and CRESS Implementation Manager is underway. Interested candidates can learn more and apply here: www.amherstma.gov/jobs  

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said, “The creation of these two new departments makes Amherst a leader in making meaningful progress towards greater social equity for its residents. These initiatives would not have happened without the incredible energy, vision, and advocacy of the Community Safety Working Group and the community.” 

The Town’s Community Safety Working Group (CSWG) was charged with making recommendations on alternative ways of providing public safety services to the community and making recommendations on reforms to the current organizational and oversight structures of the Amherst Police Department. Brianna Owen and Ellisha Walker served as co-chairs of the Working Group. The Working Group’s reports can be found here. 

Town Council President Lynn Griesemer said, “The Council’s unanimous vote to support the creation of the Community Responders for Equity, Safety, and Service (CRESS) is a clear statement of our commitment to adding this critical department to our first responders; complementing the work of our Police and Fire/EMS Departments.” 

At the Town Council meeting, Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke made a statement adding, “The creation of the CRESS Agency corrects a path taken that put the burden of being social workers and mental health care providers on the Amherst Police Department (APD). As a Town, we should not have done that, and the CRESS agency will permit Amherst to provide these services even better than in the professional manner the APD has been providing them. I thank the APD for their work and their cooperation, as well as the many other residents, committees, and department staff that have worked to implement this change and look forward to seeing the three branches of our public safety department work closely with each other for the betterment of the entire town.” 

Previously, the Town had made a substantial commitment to reparations work through the creation of the African Heritage Reparation Assembly and placing $210,000 into a fund reserved for reparations. The Town has also created a new Community Safety and Social Justice Committee which will incorporate and continue the work of the Community Safety Working Group. Lastly, the Town is creating a Police Resident Oversight Board with the goal of improving the quality and equity of policing in Amherst. Residents are being sought for all three of these committees.  

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