Extra officer not OK’d

Committee says Amherst doesn’t need more police

AMHERST – Hiring an­other patrolman for the Amherst Police Depart­ment is not supported by data, the town Ways & Means Committee told se­lectmen last week.

The committee has been working with select­men on all of the town department budgets. On Dec. 12, committee Chair­man John D’Angelo told the board the additional patrolman had been their most contentious issue.

Tvoted 7-0 against the budget line item.

"I need data," commit­tee member April Savino said to Police Chief Mark Reams, "and you’re not giving it to us."

Reams, who has 18 of­ficers, has been asking for several years that the town budget for one or two more, saying 19 officers would give the town three-car coverage most of the time, meaning three cruisers for each of the town’s four sectors.

Reams said statistics can be manipulated and misleading, and that com­mittee members misun­derstand the policing situ­ation in Amherst.

The primary pur­pose of the additional officer, intended for the midnight-6 a.m. Monday-Thursday shift, is to provide more coverage for residential neighbor­hoods, he said.

Amherst doesn’t have a pressing crime prob­lem, Reams said, but the growth of the commer­cial corridor along Route 101A has resulted in a 40 percent increase in calls for service over the last 10 years. Police have to respond to the many in­cidents at Walmart or Lowe’s, for example, at the expense of the neigh­borhoods.

"If we have two officers tied up with an arrest, guess who’s covering the neighborhoods?" Reams said. "No one. People want to see cops in the neighborhoods."

The second major rea­son for the request, he said, is the lack of dedi­cated supervision on many shifts, which he said is a liability concern. Hir­ing more officers would allow for promotions so there could be more chief surrogates.

Reams said Amherst has fewer officers than comparable communi­ties, which have 20 per 10,000 people, compared with his 18.

But committee mem­bers said they thought the number of officers in Amherst is sufficient, and that the additional hiring hasn’t been justi­fied on the basis of spe­cific needs, such as fight­ing narcotics or reducing overtime pay.

The committee mem­bers met after the se­lectmen’s meeting and didn’t change their vote, D’Angelo said.

Nevertheless, the line item will be in the pro­posed town budget, and voters will be able to re­view it at a public hearing on Jan. 9.

The Deliberative Ses­sion is scheduled for Feb. 8.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.