Amherst receives state funding for program to replace police on non-violent 911 calls

Hampshire County

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – The town of Amherst is taking the next step in re-imagining its police force.
The state is giving the town nearly a half million dollars to start up a proposed Community Response program.

Amherst is one of five communities in the state to receive this funding. All of it will go towards starting the program that will replace police on non-violent 911 calls.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health awarded $450,000 to help Amherst start up a community-driven program aimed at changing the way police interact with the public. The grant includes funding for a project manager, mental health providers, training, and evaluation. The town of Amherst said they will help the Community Response for Equity, Safety & Service program begin.

D.J. of Amherst told 22News, “I think that’s amazing. The police department, they are barely helping any students. We need more money to go to the academy level.”

This money comes after the study and final report of the community safety working group, created by the town. Their goal was to explore alternative options to respond to issues of homelessness, mental health, and other non-criminal calls to 911.

“I think it’s a great idea, I feel as if the police are helping but not as much as they could and as much as they need to,” said Aliyana Martin of Amherst.

The Town of Amherst will be contributing matching funds to support the community responder positions, a program director, and administrative support. The working group also recommended reducing the size of the Amherst Police Department, and a resident oversight board.

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