Defense attorney reviews video showing police telling minors they have no rights

A video involving Amherst Police officers is gaining traction on social media.
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 6:32 PM EDT
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AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - A video involving Amherst Police officers is gaining traction on social media.

In the video, police can be heard telling a group of minors they have no rights, so we showed the video to a local defense attorney, asking him if those statements were true.

The defense attorney told us that the minors in the video could have walked away at any point, and that despite being under the age of 18, they have the same rights as adults.

The nonprofit organization Citizens For Juvenile Justice posted a video on Facebook in hopes of bringing awareness to the rights of young people when dealing with police.

In the video, you can see two Amherst Police officers talking to a group of young people.

You can hear them say the minors do not have any rights and ask them to see their licenses. They also said the group is being detained and cannot have a phone call.

The video is now under review by town leaders.

Western Mass News took the video to defense attorney Jeremy Powers.

“The police really went overboard in terms of their questioning of the younger children they attempted to detain,” Powers told us.

The police can be heard saying, “As a juvenile, you don’t have rights at this point.” Powers told Western Mass News there is absolutely no truth in that statement.

“The Constitution is not thrown out the window because of a person’s age,” Powers said. “These kids did, in fact, have rights and the police did not recognize that.”

In the video, you can also hear officers asking the youth for their licenses. Powers told us that you do not have to give your license to police unless they have probable cause that you’re committing a crime.

In this case, Western Mass News learned the minors were being stopped for a reported noise complaint.

“It’s a civil infraction,” Powers said. “It’s not dealt with criminally, and the police’s ability to search or seize, perhaps, would be limited in a situation like that.”

Powers said the best advice in this situation would be to remain silent, but at any point, he said those kids could have walked away.

The Amherst Town Council discussed this video on Monday at their meeting.

“Anybody who would watch that video would say that does not seem like how we would want to treat our young people,” said Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

Bockelman said that in the future, it would be ideal for the newly sworn-in Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service, also known as CRESS, to respond to such calls. The civilian unit came out of recent police reform efforts with members currently undergoing training.

We have reached out to the Amherst Police Department for comment earlier this morning and have not yet heard back.

This video will also be discussed at a Community Safety & Social Justice Committee meeting in Amherst Tuesday evening.