Amherst police chief search extended to allow residents more input

  • The Amherst Police Department has been led by interim chief Capt. Gabriel Ting since the end of May. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 27, 2023

AMHERST — A search for a new police chief will be extended deeper into the fall as more input is sought from the public.

“This is longer because we have to have more engagement,” Town Manager Paul Bockelman told the Town Council on Monday.

“More listening sessions, more transparency, [a] better sort of connection with the public,” Bockelman said.

As part of the continued process, Bockelman will request an extension in the service of Capt. Gabriel Ting as the temporary police chief, a position he has been in since Police Chief Scott Livingstone retired at the end of May.

The town charter limits these interim appointments under the town manager’s jurisdiction, stating that “no temporary appointment shall be for more than 150 days, unless an extension of time is approved by the Town Council.”

Bockelman said the goal remains to get a new police chief appointed as quickly as possible.

“But we want to get it done right,” Bockelman said. “There’s a lot of interest in this position, and it’s a very important position for the town.”

For now, GovHR USA, a company based in Illinois, is assisting the town’s human resources department.

“These are top-shelf people who are consultants on this,” Bockelman said. The process is being led by a former police officer and an expert in diversity, equity and inclusion. GovHR USA is also assisting the city of Somerville in its police chief search.

The consultants have already told Bockelman that they need more listening sessions.

This appeal also came up during public comment at the Town Council, with Debora Ferreira, a member of the Community Safety & Social Justice Committee, recommending that additional forums be scheduled to give residents the chance to participate remotely.

“There is a need for virtual forum,” Ferreira said. “The other two were in person, and a lot of people were not able to attend.”

Ferreira is also calling for forums, both in person and virtual, to meet with the finalists for police chief, which she said will lead to more transparent and inclusive opportunities to contribute.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.