Amherst College looking at revamping campus police

  • Amherst College GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, June 07, 2021

AMHERST — A Boston consulting company will assist an advisory group of students, faculty and staff at Amherst College in making recommendations for possible changes to how policing and public safety is provided on campus.

College President Biddy Martin recently announced in a letter to the community that Cambridge Hill Partners of Boston will provide assistance in crafting a revised approach to community safety that can be presented to her and senior leadership by mid-October, and then delivered to college trustees for consideration.

“The advisory committee will be charged with generating options for a community safety model that will support the range of needs within our community and reflect our commitment to equity and inclusion,” Martin wrote in the May 10 correspondence.

Among the work for the consultant will be doing research into alternative community safety models and examining the costs and benefits of disarming campus police.

Martin’s letter recognizes that students and others encounter armed police at residence halls, the Valentine dining commons and in social settings, and that the Black Student Union and Association of Amherst Students have made calls for disarming and abolishing campus police.

“For many, particularly Black and brown students, the presence of armed officers creates anxiety and distress,” Martin wrote.

As part of the ongoing response to these concerns, and the college’s anti-racism plan announced in August 2020, Martin wrote that the college is adding three full-time mental health counselors and having current staff devote more time to seeing students.

There are also changes occurring with police. One is reducing the number of campus police officers by two over the past year, leaving the number of officers at 12, with additional reductions anticipated through attrition in the coming years. Another is having police officers assigned primarily to administrative and investigative roles rather than patrolling and enforcing college rules and regulations.

Armed police also will not be allowed in residence halls, dining halls or other student spaces as a routine matter, Martin wrote.