Amherst police members concerned with staffing - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Amherst police members concerned with staffing

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College students are less than a month away from returning to town and members of the Amherst Police Department are voicing their concerns about staffing levels.

A letter put out by Sgt. Gabriel Ting, president of the Amherst Police Supervisor's Union, this week said the town is not adequately staffed.

In the letter, it said the staffing level at the department is currently lower than state and national averages, "and specifically lower than similar sized communities who are not hosts to institutions of higher learning."

John Musante, Amherst town manager, said the police department grew in size from 41 to 50, nearly 25-percent, between 1997 and 2005, but then the U.S. economy took a downturn.

"With nearly a 40-percent reduction in state aid during the great recession, we did have to reduce by a portion of that increase," said Musante.

The department has held steady at 45 officers since.

The union's biggest issue stems from incidents like this past March's Blarney Blowout.

Officers used riot gear to break up off-campus gatherings.

In the letter, Ting said, "These officers are being asked to perform more with fewer resources, which are coming at a cost to both the officers and the citizens of Amherst."

The letter also claimed there are no immediate or long-term plans to address the situation. 

Musante said that is not the case, as a regional dispatch study could allow for the addition of one officer soon.

"I'm also working with the police chief on a longer term staffing analysis, on what is the appropriate number longer term," said Musante. "It's been clearly identified as a priority."

Currently, the University of Massachusetts pays the town for fire department and ambulance services, however the school said there is no money exchanged for police work.

Musante says they maintain an open dialogue with everyone involved.

"We have an ongoing collaboration partnership with UMass police and Massachusetts State Police," Musante stated. "There is ongoing discussions about pre-planning events that are on the horizon."

Musante said the town is awaiting the results of the UMass safety study being conducted by former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis.

He said it should be complete with recommendations for the university early next month.

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