Amherst Town Council passes new motion to rectify incident between police and teens

A video clip of that incident went viral this summer, showing an officer saying that the teens do not have rights due to their age, which caused concern in the
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 9:55 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2022 at 10:18 PM EST
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AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - The Amherst Town Council held a meeting Monday night to discuss an interaction that took place between teenagers and Amherst Police officers back in July.

This comes after that discussion was postponed at last week’s meeting because council members thought it required more time.

A video clip of that incident went viral this summer, showing an officer saying that the teens do not have rights due to their age, which caused concern in the town.

“Dude, I don’t need to hear that you have your rights because right now, as a juvenile, you don’t have rights at this point,” one officer can be heard saying in that viral video.

That video clip from July 5th sparked concerns within the Amherst community.

Officials said that after 12:30 a.m., officers responded to a noise complaint on Main Street. They found 9 teenagers and asked for identification because those under 18 are not allowed to drive after midnight.

A town council meeting held Monday evening discussed the next steps.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman kicked off the meeting by saying he wants to acknowledge errors in the handling of the situation.

“I think there’s agreement that the police officer’s statement to the minors regarding their individual rights was incorrect,” he said. “The second officer on the scene recognized this immediately and corrected it, for which I am grateful.”

He said the officer acknowledged his use of those words and said he regrets them.

“We acknowledged the mistake, but did not apologize to those whose trust we had violated. In failing to do so, we left the impression that this mistake was acceptable in our community. It was not. It is not,” Town Manager Bockelman said. “To the youths present that evening, I apologize. You should never have a moment’s doubt about your rights or of the obligation of the police department to protect those rights.”

After a nearly three hours-long discussion, the council voted 12 to 1 in favor of a new motion which says that the town manager will work with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department to:

  • Propose to the Council a community visioning plan with a focus on public safety and social justice
  • Propose to the Town Council a plan for the creation of a Resident Oversight Board with possible hire of a consultant to help with the development of that plan
  • Organize a review of public safety protocols for responding to and handling public safety calls involving all residents, including minors
  • Continue to develop protocols for Community Responders for Equity, Safety & Service
  • Develop and offer racial equity training, know your rights training, and other options for additional training to employees and members of the public
  • Develop a communications plan to raise awareness in the community about these efforts
  • And that the town manager will report on actions to be taken and/or progress in addressing the above, no later than three months from the date of this vote

Town Manager Bockelman added that he and the police chief are reaching out to each individual involved in the July 5th incident. He said that he would like to meet with the teenagers and their parents to learn more about the incident and how it impacted them.