Amherst police set to wrap up probe of controversial video

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 08-09-2022 7:14 PM

AMHERST — An inquiry into a video circulating online that shows Amherst police officers interacting with local youths during a response to a late-night noise complaint in early July will be finalized prior to Monday’s Town Council meeting.

With the topic of the video expected to be the first item on the agenda for the council’s meeting, Town Manager Paul Bockelman said Tuesday that the internal investigation by the police department should be ready any day.

“It will be complete this week,” Bockelman said.

When the inquiry is complete, its results will go to Pamela Nolan Young, the director of the town’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department. At that point, Bockelman said he and Young, and perhaps others, will issue a statement.

The video footage shows officers telling several detained teenagers at a Main Street housing development that they have no rights due to their ages, the time of the day and the response to a noise complaint. The officers also inform them that they can’t make a phone call as they try to identify each person, through driver’s licenses or school IDs, and appear to not allow any of the teens to depart immediately.

Residents who served on the Community Safety Working Group have contended that the video demonstrates that apartment complexes in Amherst are still being oversurveilled by police and youth need spaces such as a Youth Empowerment Center, rather than being criminalized. The group advocated for the creation of both the Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service department, aimed at providing a civilian alternative to police to handle certain calls, and the DEI department.

In addition, elected town leaders have also been questioned for not making public comments about the video. At a July Town Council meeting, Bockelman addressed the video, but only during his report to councilors.

He acknowledged Tuesday that it’s a “legitimate criticism” to take officials to task for limited statements about the video.

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The contents of the video, though, have been discussed publicly by several town committees, which have made appeals to Young to launch her own investigation. Young has said, though, that she would wait for the internal investigation to be done, and that her actions might be limited due to the police union’s collective bargaining agreement.

Young is responsible for creating a Police Resident Oversight Board.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.]]>