Five selected from limited pool to interview for Amherst police chief

The new Amherst police chief will oversee 47 officers and 14 civilians, including emergency dispatchers.

The new Amherst police chief will oversee 47 officers and 14 civilians, including emergency dispatchers. STAFF FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 02-15-2024 8:26 PM

AMHERST — Even with continued concerns over having just a small pool of applicants to be Amherst’s next police chief, a search committee is forging ahead with interviews.

Five candidates, culled from 11 who submitted letters of interest in the job, will soon answer questions and meet with the search committee over Zoom.

“We’re now inviting those five to first-round interviews,” Everald Henry, who chairs the search committee, told his colleagues on the Community Safety and Social Justice Committee at a recent meeting.

Before the interviews, the committee is developing questions to ask the candidates, Henry said.

“I think we have very qualified candidates,” Henry said. He elaborated that some had sensible and smart cover letters that address diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and others wrote about healing and racial harmony. “That gave us a window into prospective candidates,” he said.

Committee members hope to be able to recommend three people to be interviewed in person by Town Manager Paul Bockelman, who will then make a selection. The exact timeline for a selection is undetermined, Bockelman said.

The person chosen would succeed Scott Livingstone, who retired last May after nearly 14 years of overseeing the department. The police chief would lead a team of 47 sworn officers and 14 civilian employees, including those who handle emergency dispatching.

Police Capt. Gabriel Ting has been serving as interim police chief, with his initial 150-day appointment recently extended by another 150 days by a Town Council vote.

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Bockelman said the search committee has been deliberate with the process, which began in September with public input sessions led by GovHR USA, a company based in Illinois that has been assisting the town’s human resources department in the search. However, he expressed worry at a Cuppa Joe community meeting in early January that the pool of applicants was insufficient.

Henry acknowledged concerns about whether the candidate pool is large enough. Since December, the search has remained open and efforts have been underway to expand it, but there has been no similar expansion of interest yet, while one applicant took a job elsewhere.

For Henry, one issue is that there were no female applicants. “There’s diversity, some people have more than others,” he said.

CRESS director

Meanwhile, another search committee is working with Bockelman to find a director for the Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service department. The committee got 19 applications, interviewed eight people and recommended four finalists, committee member Allegra Clark told the Community Safety and Social Justice Committee.

Clark said the candidates had a diversity of work and lived experience and thought.

The CRESS department has been under interim leadership since last fall, following the resignation of Earl Miller, the first CRESS director.

Bockelman confirmed that he hopes to have a new CRESS director in the next few weeks, timing it to get approval from the Town Council.

For both the CRESS director and police chief search, the candidates selected, as future department heads, will be referred to the Town Council, which will have 14 days to approve or disapprove them, or allow the appointments to be made without action.