Amherst police: Officer erred in telling youths they have no rights during noise complaint response captured on video

  • Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone released an internal police report on Monday into the response to a July 5 noise complaint, during which an Amherst patrol officer is shown on a 54-second cellphone video telling youths they have no rights. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/18/2022 8:24:20 PM

AMHERST — An internal police report into the response to a July 5 noise complaint, during which an Amherst patrol officer is shown on a 54-second cellphone video telling youths they have no rights, indicates that the officer misspoke.

“The department and I regret that one of the officers on the scene wrongfully informed one of the youth that he had no rights,” Police Chief Scott Livingstone wrote in a report published on Monday. “The statement was corrected immediately by the second officer on the scene.”

Yet the report from Livingstone, issued to the Human Rights Commission and provided to the Town Council for its joint meeting with the Community Safety and Social Justice Committee on Monday, shows that the nearly hourlong interaction that morning led to no arrests or citations, prompted no use of physical force or restraint, and that all the youths were safely released to the custody and care of their parents and guardians.

The report is the first from police and comes after the Town Council held a meeting on the topic on Aug. 15, a four-hour discussion at which Pamela Nolan Young, the town’s director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, issued a preliminary report on her investigation into the incident that found no misuse of authority by police. Young issued an addendum to her original report on Monday that was delivered to the Town Council and also included in its meeting packet.

Livingstone’s report states that the department contacted all parents and guardians of the involved youths after the Aug. 15 meeting, with two parents responding to a request for additional information. He told the Town Council and members of the committee that he is willing to meet with any of the families at any time.

His report is also based on statements received from individuals involved, including some anonymously provided by youths via the Human Rights Commission.

But Livingstone said a request to obtain additional cellphone video beyond what was posted online was denied, though an additional 3 seconds of footage was located.

The report states that there was no difference in how any of the youths, with six identified as Black, Indegenous and people of color, or BIPOC, and three as white, were treated.

“All nine individuals were treated the same, each asked the same questions, each asked to identify themselves through verbal or school identification,” Livingstone wrote. “Identifying individuals at a noise complaint is standard protocol and policy.”

The two families who did participate in conversations with police were divided as to the accuracy of the reported police actions, as confirmed by both Livingstone and Young.

“One family affirmed the police actions and one family disaffirmed the police actions,” Livingstone wrote. Young added that this means one family disputed what police say happened, while the other didn’t.

Young’s addendum adds context to some of the actions that are at the center of the debate over whether there was wrongdoing by police, as continues to be alleged by the Community Safety and Social Justice Committee.

For example, one family contends that a response from two officers, each in a separate cruiser, to a noise complaint in a low-income neighborhood is discriminatory over-policing. The department, though, states that it is policy to have two officers respond to a noise complaint, each riding solo.

While police contend that the response was to a complaint made by a named individual, the family argues that all the youth were talking quietly in three small groups.

Though the police department has released an internal inquiry into the event, Livingstone explained that personnel matters are confidential and that any type of discipline falls under the collective bargaining agreement for the patrol officers.

Both Livingstone and Young also note that the department has complied with all the state-mandated Peace Officer Standards and Training requirements to date.

Community Safety and Social Justice Committee member Demetria Shabazz said a civilian review board with subpoena power that can offer independent review of police actions is needed in town. Without that, she said, no real accountability or reform can happen in the police department.

Fellow committee member Pat Ononibaku said the town can’t move toward healing without an apology from police, which hasn’t yet happened.

Still, in her report, Young notes that Town Manager Paul Bockelman has directed her to engage a consultant to conduct a series of racial healing workshops.

“As a community we must have the courage to admit a mistake and act to correct it, the strength to do the hard work of reconciliation, and, have the capacity to forgive and show grace,” Young wrote.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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