The following letter appeared previously in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
The retirement of Amherst’s long time Chief of Police affords an opportunity for the town to make genuine changes in policing, especially if it looks beyond its current personnel to find someone who is ready to work closely with the community’s increasingly diverse residents and its ever growing student population. The Amherst Police Department needs reform and a leader who is committed to listening to and working with community members; one willing to accept responsibility for police actions and who expects accountability from officers; one who welcomes a resident oversight board and is willing to work with them to create police reforms.
We are now living in a community where students outnumber local residents. Overwhelming shows of force by local police have never been a good solution to large student parties, and Amherst police have begun to realize that fact. However, the Amherst Police Department’s response to smaller noise complaints has increased in recent years; their approach to local youth has become more aggressive, and they have over-policed low income neighborhoods while they merely patrol the perimeter of large parties and events like the Blarney Blowout.
There is no easy solution to these problems and the challenges facing the town. One person alone cannot be expected to create the change needed, but in hiring a new police chief, Amherst has an opportunity to find someone who will work in close coordination with other town departments and a resident oversight board, with college and university safety personnel, and with members of our community to face those challenges and create that needed change.
William Stewart is a resident of Leverett