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 firstname.lastname@example.org.