Northampton police review panel to give progress report


Staff Writer
Published: 2/10/2021 8:01:06 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Public comment will be invited Thursday evening when the city’s Policing Review Commission gives an update on its progress.

“We’re hoping to continue to hear from individuals, especially those with experiences directly related to policing in Northampton, and community safety in general for Northampton area residents and visitors,” co-chair Dan Cannity said in an email.

The hearing, conducted via Zoom, begins at 6 p.m. The commission will allow people to speak for 7 minutes each.

“Commenters may opt to receive a response from the commission. This will be included in the 7-minute time,” the meeting agenda reads.

Police Chief Jody Kasper met with the Policing Policies and Services subcommittee this week, and she planned to meet with the Alternatives to Policing subcommittee on Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, another group is calling for a 50% cut to the Police Department’s budget and the creation of a new department.

Northampton Abolition Now is “urging Northampton to join a growing wave of cities across the country who are re-imagining public safety by transforming their municipal budgets,” the group said in a statement released on Sunday.

The group published demands that include immediately reallocating the $880,000 that was cut from the Police Department’s budget last year, creating a Department of Community Care “which shall be responsible for reimagining and implementing true public safety in Northampton,” and cutting the Police Department’s budget in half next fiscal year and reallocating those funds.

A full version of the group’s demands published on its website includes dozens of pages of appendices with additional research. It has more than 150 signatures from residents — including former City Councilor Alisa Klein — people who visit, work in, or go to school in the city, or those outside of Northampton.

Eight organizations have signed onto the demands, including Arise for Social Justice, Sunrise Movement Western Massachusetts, and downtown restaurant Belly of the Beast.

“As an owner of a small business in downtown Northampton,” Belly of the Beast owner Aimee Francaes said in a statement, “I know that our business thrives when our community feels safe; and the police do not make our clientele feel safe. We are committed to anti-racism. We support Black Lives Matter, and therefore the demands of Northampton Abolition Now.”

Group member Robert Eastman wrote that “Northampton spends about $16,500 a day on police. In a day! Imagine how much good that could do if we invested in programs that supported people instead of into the police which criminalize and punish people.” The department’s budget this fiscal year was $6,030,801.

Drastic change

Kasper said in an email that a 50% cut to the budget would “dramatically change police services in the city.” It would decrease the number of officers on duty at a time from five to two or three, she said.

“From an operational standpoint, we would not be able to respond to all the calls that we receive for police service, many calls would be put on hold until there was an officer available,” she wrote, adding that the department wouldn’t be able to staff large events.

Cuts would also mean laying off the most junior staff, “who are more diverse than our more senior officers and this includes almost all of our women and people of color,” she wrote.

Mayor David Narkewicz said he was aware of the group’s demands and is waiting for the commission’s final report.

“Where I am at is waiting for this commission to complete its work and to submit its recommendations to the mayor and to the City Council,” he said.

The $880,000 cut from the department’s budget last year reduced the amount of Fiscal Stability Stabilization Fund the budget needed, but mid-year, Narkewicz had to use more than $350,000 in reserves to balance the budget.

“We ended up having to take more money basically to infuse the budget with more fiscal stability funds to prop up revenue that had basically come in even lower than we projected at the time. That’s basically the purpose of the fiscal stability fund,” he said.

According to the mayor’s recent financial trend report, the city currently has more than $12 million in reserves, which includes $3 million in the Fiscal Stability Stabilization Fund.

Cannity said he has also received the Northampton Abolition Now demands.

“In many instances they align with our own ideas,” he wrote. “In fact, we spent a good portion of the last meeting discussing the creation of a new department … Many of the demands are well-researched, and similar to demands being made across the country, and involve many historically marginalized communities.”

Information about how to join the Thursday evening public hearing via Zoom can be found on the online city calendar. There will also another public hearing scheduled for March 6, according to Cannity.

After filing a preliminary report in the first week of January, the group is on track to file its final report in March, he said.

“We expect to have a very rough draft to provide before the March 6 public hearing,” he wrote, but he does not expect the final report to be delivered in its entirety until March 18.

Greta Jochem can be reached at

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