Video of Amherst Police interaction with minors raises concerns

A video circulating on social media involving the Amherst Police Department is under review and it has many in town talking.
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 4:00 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2022 at 4:21 PM EDT
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AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A video circulating on social media involving the Amherst Police Department is under review and it has many in town talking. In the video, two officers are seen talking to a group of minors and they can be heard saying those minors don’t have rights.

The video was discussed at the Amherst Town Council meeting Monday night and it’s expected to be discussed in a safety meeting on Tuesday.

The video was posted on Facebook by the non-profit organization Citizens for Juvenile Justice. It is already getting traction, with more than 750 views. In the video, you can see two Amherst police officers talking to a group of young people. You can hear them say the minors don’t 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 Facebook post said it’s a group of youth being talked to by police because of a civil infraction, which we later learned was a noise complaint. The group stated they posted the video to bring awareness to the rights of young people when dealing with police.

“From what I’ve seen on the seconds, 54 second video, it looked like it looked like an unfortunate incident,” said Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

Western Mass News showed the video to Theodore Joseph, an 18-year-old, and asked him how he would feel if he was one of the minors in the video.

“I’d feel pretty frightened if somebody who is a police officer is in a position with a lot of authority, and when they tell you you’ve lost your rights, and you can’t really do anything, it’s a scary situation because you don’t know what to do,” Joseph added.

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

The video was discussed at Monday night’s virtual town council meeting. Bockelman mentioned the town’s new Community Responders for Equity, Safety, and Service, known as CRESS, which came out of recent police reform efforts. Members were sworn in earlier this month. Bockelman said this would’ve been a great situation for them to respond to.

“People say why didn’t CRESS respond and I think everyone would agree that this is precisely the type of situation we would want CRESS to respond to - it’s a noise complaint, it’s young people, it’s something that police don’t need to show up at and i think from the police point of view and my point of view and the cress point of view,” Bockelman noted.

However, CRESS is not yet fully trained. Bockelman said this video will be used as part of their training.

“They are actually using that as a part of their training scenarios. Why didn’t CRESS respond? CRESS isn’t ready to take to the streets yet. They’re in the middle of their training program. Their training will go through the end of August,” Bockelman explained.

Other town council members said CRESS is a great option, but not the only option.

“I don’t want people to think ‘Oh, we have the good cops and the bad cops and that CREWSS are the ones that have compassion.’ All officers must have compassion and common sense,” said Amherst Town Councilor Dorothy Pam.

We’ve reached out to the Amherst Police Department for comment on Tuesday and we have not yet heard back.