UMPD mounted patrol, Phillips Street (off campus) last April
The highly publicized and certainly effective joint patrols between UMass Police Department and Amherst Police Department around the periphery of our flagship campus are -- at least for the time being -- no more.
Killed off by a legal challenge initiated by the New England Police Benevolent Association, legal representatives for the UMPD rank and file.
Their problem with the Mutual Aid Agreement is not just that it increases their workload. UMass police officers do not receive the same benefits as town officers, but the MAA has them performing the same job.
The Mutual Aid Agreement was signed back in 2007. Then Town Manager Larry Shaffer and Select Board Chair Gerry Weiss had championed the initiative as a means of mitigating off campus rowdy student behavior.
And as an excuse not to hire more Amherst cops.
At the time Patrick Archbald, Deputy Chief of UMass police was quoted in the Daily Collegian: "The agreement removes a hurdle to taking police action, and in turn, we hope it will make both our communities safer. All stakeholders were motivated in this effort by making safer communities and doing so in the most economically feasible way. The 'MAA,' made perfect sense for everyone."
Last year the public safety departments moved even closer together via weekend "joint patrols" on streets immediately adjacent to the sprawling campus. The results? A less rowdy spring. Far less rowdy.
When I asked specifically about how well the joint patrols worked over last Spring UMass PD Chief John Horvath replied:
"UMPD dedicated more officers to supporting APD with off campus issues in spring 2013. The two departments have worked together for a long time and there are good relationships built, while new ones are forming. It is my intention to continue to work with APD, Chief Livingstone and the Amherst & Hadley communities to support them when needed, while respecting the jurisdictional boundaries that are established."
Meadow Street Townhouse Apartments main entry (off campus). Last April
So where do we go from here? Chief Scott Livingstone confirmed "my request for budget FY15 addresses manpower concerns...." That request, however, has to survive Amherst Town Meeting, a legislative body not always champions of public safety. Besides, FY15 does not start until July 1st -- too late for this coming Spring.
UMPD hands out ticket last April on Fearing Street (town property)
This morning Chief Horvath responded:
"The spirit of action and cooperation in my previous quote still stands. UMPD will continue to support both the Amherst and Hadley Police Departments when requested under our mutual aid agreements. Most recently, Chief Livingstone and I have been discussing ways our departments can further assist one another in meeting our collective goal of a safe community. We will continue to collaborate on how to better provide police service that is in line with legal mandates, as well as challenges unique to the area. The mutual aid agreement between the University and the Town of Amherst is being reviewed by legal representatives and we will seek to implement the recommendations that are provided."Because of the demand spike on weekends for ambulances (too many of them dealing with overly intoxicated students) UMass donated an extra $40,000 per semester to bolster AFD response capability.
And later today a joint super committee made up of high-ranking UMass and town officials will put the final touches on a Request For Proposal being issued for a consultant to help with town gown relations. Especially as it relates to rowdy off campus behavior.
UMass needs to step up to address this disturbing development; before the flowers bloom in May.