Public Comment: Defund The Police And Fund CSWG Initiatives In FY23
After George Floyd’s murder in 2020, there was a national cry to end racist policing. Though the national outrage has fizzled, police brutality remains far too common, even in western Massachusetts. In 2022, Orlando_Taylor was killed by Springfield Police and Miguel Estrella was killed by Pittsfield Police. Both Orlando and Miguel had mental health symptoms, and deserved a mental health response. Policing is not the solution to public safety.
Advocates in Amherst have continued to call for defunding the Amherst Police Department. A promising, BIPOC-led envisioning of an alternative safety department has been implemented. The data provided in the FY23 budget show almost triple the amount of 911 calls related to mental health from previous years. This supports increased funding for CRESS, the town’s civilian responder program, and other preventative programs proposed by the Community Safety Working Group (CSWG). However, the funding allocated to these programs for FY23 is inadequate.
- The FY23 budget proposes only $621,520 in funding for CRESS (more than $2 million short of the CSWG’s recommendation).
- The FY23 budget allocates $0 to a BIPOC cultural center (more than $400,000 short of the CSWG’s recommendation).
- The FY23 budget allocates $500,000 to explore the possibility of creating a youth empowerment center (slightly more than the CSWG’s recommended yearly budget for the center), but it provides no commitment for the creation of a youth empowerment center and the Town Manager continues to discuss creating the center at the Jones Library against the express wishes of the CSWG.
- The FY23 budget proposes $175,257 to the DEI office (more than $50,000 short of the CSWG’s recommendation).
These proposed programs will help create community safety in a responsive, anti-racist manner. They should be fully funded with money redirected from the police budget. The demand is still defund the police.
Defund413Amherst has put together the following FY23 Budget Demands.
1. Implement all of the CSWG’s program and policy recommendations at the funding levels recommended in their reports (Part A & Part B).
- Fund DEI office at $227,647 per year (Part A, pg 14)
- Create and fund Teen Empowerment Center (independent from the Jones Library) and BIPOC Cultural Center at $942,397 per year (Part A, pg 15)
- Fund CRESS at $2,739,300 per year (Part A, pg 13)
- Proposed total budget for 12 responders ($2,824,300) minus $85,000 of startup costs for equipment and vehicles
- Changes to Amherst Police Department Policies
- Use of Force (Part B, pg 20)
- Consent Search (Part B, pg 23)
- Low Level & Pretextual Stops (Part B, pg 25)
- Reimagine traffic enforcement outside of the APD (Part B, pg 36)
- Engage in an extended process of community healing and visioning (Part B, pg 41)
- Develop an anti-racist departmental culture in the APD (Part B, pg 46)
2. Reduce the size of the APD (Part A, pg 16)
- Don’t fill any APD vacancies and transfer positions to CRESS
- Cut number of police officers by 50% over 2 years
3. Cut APD budget by 47%
You can sign a petition to Town Council.
Defund413Amherst has put together a Guide_for_Public_Comment ahead of the May 16 Public BudgetForum. Let’s show up to advocate for full funding of CSWG’s proposals.