AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – The Town of Amherst’s first director of the town’s Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service Program (CRESS), Earl Miller, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

Town Manager Brianna Sunryd told 22News, an outside independent investigator is looking into the operation of the CRESS program. Miller’s leave will continue until the completion of the investigation.

“This action should not affect the operation of the CRESS program whose members are eager to fulfill their responsibility to the community and the residents that they serve. I have met with the members of the CRESS department and have full confidence in the program and its members,” a statement from Town Manager Brianna Sunryd.

Due to the internal personnel matter the Town will not provide any further comment.

CRESS, a public safety department a partnership with the Amherst Police, was developed last year whose mission is to respond to non-violent incidents, involving matters such as homelessness and social issues. The civilian responder from CRESS goes on calls that don’t require an ambulance or an armed response from noise complaints to well-being checks.

“We have a great police department here and a great fire department, but everyone recognizes that there are some calls that don’t fall into what they do, so we’re here to cover the rest,” Earl Miller told 22News in an interview on July 5, 2022.

The Town of Amherst received a $450,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in 2021 to establish a community-driven program aimed at changing the way police interact with the public. Miller was appointed in March 2022 and previously worked as the Director of Recovery for the Western Massachusetts division of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health as well as at the Center for Human Development in Springfield as Coordinator of Peer Roles.

The department consists of seven responders, an implementation manager, a veteran’s outreach volunteer, and a director.

  • Earl Miller, Director
  • Kat Newman, Implementation Manager
  • Kevawn Lord, Responder
  • Brittany Haughton, Responder
  • Vanessa Phillips, Responder
  • Rome Cabrera, Responder
  • Tim Durocher, Responder
  • Kyalo Maingi, Responder
  • Tia Atwell, Reponder
  • Eugene Herman, CRESS Veteran’s Outreach Volunteer

“The purpose is to ensure that any public safety response is anti-racist, equitable, just, and fair and that we offer preventative services that get at the root of assisting our community members to avoid necessitating public safety involvement in the first place,” description posted on the Town of Amherst’s website.

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