Amherst Police Chief Livingstone stepping down in May

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 03-08-2023 6:41 PM

AMHERST — Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone will retire in May after nearly 14 years leading a department he joined upon graduating from Granby High School in 1977.

“This has been just an incredible journey over the last 46 years,” Livingstone said in a statement issued Friday.

“I have been blessed with unwavering support from my wife Rhys and my children. The individuals I have worked with, both past and present, are absolutely the best people I know, who have chosen a profession that is more rewarding than frustrating. They have all played a role in the reason I have remained as a police officer in the town of Amherst for this extended period.”

Livingstone, a Northampton resident, will end his tenure on May 27. He was hired as police chief in August 2009, succeeding Charles Scherpa in the role. Livingstone has referred to both Scherpa and Donald Maia, who was Amherst’s chief from 1973 to 1999, as his mentors.

Livingstone started as a community service officer, became a special officer trainee in 1979 and a police officer trainee in 1981. Soon after, he was appointed a patrol officer, then became sergeant in 1988, lieutenant in 2000 and captain in 2008.

Livingstone is earning a salary of $165,653 this year, with an $11,000 longevity payment this month.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman thanked Livingstone for his service.

“Scott has served the town of Amherst with integrity, honor, and compassion,” Bockelman said. “He has provided strong, progressive leadership as chief for 14 years. He is a unique public safety leader — one of the best in the state — who has committed his entire career to making Amherst a safe place for all.”

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When Livingstone became chief, he emphasized community policing and problem-oriented policing. One of the big challenges for the town has been addressing behavior by college students that impact the quality of life in neighborhoods, including the Blarney Blowout, the annual pre-St. Patrick’s Day revelry that by 2014 had become a huge annual disturbance in early March.

Bockelman said Livingstone has run a department with highly trained officers, has been on the forefront of embracing change in policing — such as the six pillars of President Barack Obama’s 21st Century Policing — and has worked to implement the town’s unarmed Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service department.

“I will miss his wisdom, advice and friendship,” Bockelman said. “The town has been fortunate to have Scott as its police chief.”

Town Council President Lynn Griesemer added her support for Livingstone’s work.

“As he grew up in the Amherst Police Department, the department made many changes and continues to adapt to the challenging environment that is redefining policing nationwide,” Griesemer said.

“Because of his leadership, the Amherst Police Department is well regarded statewide and seen as the training and recruitment ground for those who move on to head departments in communities throughout the region.”

Several of his peers in the department have gone on to lead other municipal agencies, including Jennifer Gundersen in South Hadley, Christopher Pronovost in Belchertown and Mike Kent in Burlington.

Livingstone introduced initiatives such as addressing quality-of-life issues with community-based policing, crisis intervention teams and a community outreach officer; developing specialized response programs such as in-house civilian advocates on domestic violence and mental health issues; and establishing K9 units and the transition to hybrid police cruisers.

Some of the professional achievements Livingstone notes he is most proud of include being named police chief, his graduation from the FBI National Academy that same year, and being named the Police Executive of the Year by the Western Massachusetts Police Chiefs in 2019.

Since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the Amherst police, like many other departments, have been under scrutiny. Calls for defunding the police during recent budget cycles, the creation of CRESS and the reduction of the force to 46 officers have created morale and staffing issues for the department.

“To the Amherst community, I would just like to say thank you for all the support I’ve received and continue to receive to this day,” Livingstone said. “Amherst can be a difficult town to police in, but we have always been supported by the vast majority of you and for that, I will always be grateful.”

The town is expected to begin the search process for a successor immediately, with details about that process and the public’s participation forthcoming. Bockelman said the town charter requires all department heads to be confirmed or denied by the Town Council.

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