Amherst selects finalists for police chief, will meet public next week

Two finalists have been named to serve as the next police chief in Amherst. Todd Ahern, of the Chelmsford Police Department, and Gabriel Ting, an Amherst captain and temporary chief, will meet with the public next Tuesday, April 2.

Two finalists have been named to serve as the next police chief in Amherst. Todd Ahern, of the Chelmsford Police Department, and Gabriel Ting, an Amherst captain and temporary chief, will meet with the public next Tuesday, April 2. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 04-01-2024 11:40 AM

AMHERST — An Amherst police captain who has been the department’s temporary police chief since last May and a Chelmsford police lieutenant who has led the department’s wellness division are finalists to become the next chief for the Amherst Police Department.

Todd Ahern, the Chelmsford lieutenant who has worked for that department for 30 years, and Gabriel Ting, an Amherst captain and temporary chief who has worked for that department for 26 years, were announced as police chief finalists by Town Manager Paul Bockelman on Tuesday.

Bockelman said the Police Chief Search Committee forwarded him the two finalists to succeed Scott Livingstone, who retired last May after more than 14 years in the position leading a team of 47 sworn officers and 14 civilian employees, including those who handle emergency dispatching.

The announcement comes as hourlong meet-and-greet sessions with the public are set to take place Tuesday, April 2, at the Large Activity Room of the Bangs Community Center, 70 Boltwood Walk. Ahern will arrive at 5 p.m. and Ting at 6:30 p.m. Interpretation services will be available and child care will be provided.

Bockelman said he would like to hire a police chief as soon as possible, though he will be interviewing both finalists, and they will be meeting with officers, dispatchers and the animal welfare officer, along with the public.

“I see this as a final stage of the process,” Bockelman said.

The search began in September with public input sessions led by GovHR USA, a company based in Illinois that assisted the town’s human resources department in the search. Since then, the Police Chief Search Committee, which is chaired by attorney Everald Henry, has handled most of the work. Bockelman said the 10-member search committee is majority Black, Indigenous and people of color.

The process has been unlike others that have occurred for police chief in Amherst, where the town manager has largely been responsible for overseeing the process for the past 50 years, with those already working in the department being selected for the position, with Donald Maia succeeding Frank Hart in the 1970s, Charles Scherpa taking over for Maia in 2000 and then Livingstone replacing Scherpa in 2009.

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In February, Henry said five candidates were being invited for first-round interviews, culled from 11 who submitted letters of interest in the job.

Ahern is the lieutenant in charge of Community Wellness and Outreach, a program in which a mental health clinician accompanies officers on certain calls. Ahern began his tenure in Chemslford in 1994 as a patrol officer, becoming a detective in 2000, sergeant in 2004 and lieutenant in 2015. He holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and a master of arts in criminal justice, both from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. In 2021, Ahern earned a Public Leadership Credential from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

In addition, Ahern has coached youth wrestling, lacrosse and soccer programs in Chelmsford.

Ting, of Belchertown, serves as temporary chief and captain in charge of Police Operations. Ting started as a patrol officer on the Amherst force in 1997, becoming a detective in 2004, sergeant in 2010 and lieutenant in 2016. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in sociology, with a concentration in criminal justice, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a master of science in criminal justice administration from Western New England University. Ting is a certified instructor under the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council and has taught at various police academies.

In addition, Ting has coached youth lacrosse and hockey in western Massachusetts. He serves on the Ancestral Bridges Foundation’s board of directors.

Aside from Henry, the search committee includes members Lev BenEzra, executive director of the Amherst Survival Center; Tony Butterfield, chairman of the town’s Personnel Board and professor emeritus at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass; Elizabeth Haygood, who co-chairs the Human Rights Commission; Jennifer Moyston, assistant director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Amherst Fire Chief Tim Nelson; UMass Police Chief Tyrone Parham; Croxcker Farm School Principal Derek Shea; David Williams, a member of the Amherst Housing Authority and member of the Amherst League of Women Voters Racial Justice Committee; and Human Resources Director Melissa Loiodice-Walker.

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