Amherst officials discuss video showing officers telling teens they didn’t have rights

Concerns have been raised about the Amherst Police Department after a video last month showed officers telling teenagers they didn’t have rights.
Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 10:22 PM EDT
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AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Concerns have been raised about the Amherst Police Department after a video last month showed officers telling teenagers they didn’t have rights.

Amherst town councilors met Monday night to discuss a controversial video that went viral on social media last month in which an officer can be heard telling teenagers they do not have rights.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director Pamela Young presented a full report into the incident on Monday. She said on July 5 at 12:32 a.m., two officers responded to Main Street in Amherst.

“The officers found nine youths of various races and ethnicities. At least three identified as BIPOC, so black, indigenous, people of color. All of the youths were under the age of 18. The officers sought identification from the teens. The officers did so because the teens are not permitted to drive after 12 midnight pursuant to Mass. General Law Chapter 90, Sections 10 and 8B,” Young said.

She said the interaction was nearly an hour long, but the video, only 54 seconds, showed an officer telling the teens they didn’t have rights due to their age.

“You’ve lost it, you’re not an adult,” is heard on the video.

We watched the video for ourselves and it also shows the teens asking to call their parents.

“You don’t get to make a call right now because we said so because you’re detained because you can’t be out right now,” was also heard in the video.

Many people raised concerns following the release of the video, including the Human Rights Commission, which filed a complaint with the police department and said the comments were an abuse of power.

“A simple definition of ‘abuse of power’ used by the Department of Justice states, ‘It is the misuse of a position of power to take unjust advantage of individuals, organizations, or governments.’ Did the words and actions take unjust advantage of the youth? The youth are not arrested. No citation was given. The youth were released to the custody of their parents or guardians. The officer’s statements were clearly erroneous, but I do not believe they equate to an abuse of power,” Young noted.

The police department conducted an investigation in which they reviewed the policies and regulations regarding officer conduct, juveniles, arrest, and noise complaint policies.

“I was able to speak to the officers face-to-face and ask what happened there and why was the statement made and there was a reaction to something that one of the youths had said to the officer that made the statement…He told me that he doesn’t know how the words came out the way they came out. He made the statement. He knows it was wrong. He regretted it the second it came out,” said Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone.

Some of the town councilors criticized the towns response time to this incident.

“This happened on, what, July 5? And here we are, the fifteenth of August and in that time, people have been upset,” said Amherst Town Councilor Michele Miller.

Police said no parent or guardian of any of the teens involved has filed a complaint. Once the report is completed, they said they would like the officers involved to sit down with the youth if they’re willing and have an open conversation to talk about the incident.