Nov. 15-22, 2020, is Municipal Awareness Week in the Town of Amherst. The article below is the second of four outlining the role of some of the town’s departments.
They’ve each sworn to serve and protect. They’re the men and women of the Amherst Police Department.
“For each of us the greatest satisfaction in life comes from helping others, especially those whose life has not been so kind,” Police Chief Dwayne Pike says. “Every day we put on our uniform we have an opportunity to help others.”
Helping others is something the department has been doing since 1890. Currently, there are 24 full-time police officers and three part-time officers who provide policing to the town of Amherst 24-hour per day, 365 days a year.
The department’s general patrol section consists of four platoons that are compromised of a sergeant and three constables. Working 12-hour shifts, these officers respond to a broad range of calls, from the most minor to the most serious.
Their duties include responding to emergency calls, investigating criminal offences, drug enforcement, investigating sudden deaths, enforcing traffic regulations, investigating accidents and enforcing provincial statutes like the Liquor Control Act and the Protection of Property Act. In addition, these officers provide assistance to persons dealing with non-criminal issues, such as mental health, landlord tenancy, child custody and homelessness.
The four platoons are supervised by the department’s staff sergeant, who ensures that platoons provide a level of service that meets the expectations and standards of the department. The staff sergeant conducts quality assurance audits, develops operational plans for special events, such as parades and festivals, and assists in the development of policy and procedures.
The staff sergeant is also responsible for supervising the major crime unit, which is manned by a sergeant. The major crime unit sergeant’s responsibilities include the investigation of incidents of a serious, complex and/or sensitive nature, such as sexual assaults, frauds, internet crimes, robberies, assaults with weapons and homicide. The sergeant is also the department’s exhibit custodian and is responsible to assist in policy development and any Police Act investigations.
The department also has a crime prevention officer, whose responsibility is to work with community partners to develop and deliver programs that increase public awareness and involvement, provide strategies that reduce the opportunities of crime and support high-risk groups such as seniors and youth.
Another member of the force is the department’s school resource-youth officer. This officer assists four local schools in providing a safe learning environment by developing positive, trusting relationships between students, staff and parents. This officer also helps deliver programs that support for school events such as Safe Grad and encourage good emotional health.
The department also has a property crime examiner whose prime duties include investigating crime scene for such things as finger prints. The officer also photographs the scene, collects evidence and provides analysis. This officer works closely with the RCMP Identification Section.
Two other Amherst officers work closely with the RCMP in the Cumberland Street Crime Enforcement Unit. The goal of this unit is to reduce crime in Cumberland County by targeting street-level crime. They investigate drug activity, contraband tobacco, serial break and enters, armed robberies, serial threats and major thefts.
These police officers are supported by three administration staff, a bylaw officer, three full-time and two part-time dispatchers, an animal control officer, one full-time and one part-time criminal records check clerk, three crossing guards and jail guards (as needed).
The department is led by the town’s police chief and deputy-chief. Their responsibilities include ensuring the safety and security of the citizens of the Town of Amherst while maintaining or exceeding the provincial standards for policing. They also ensure the department meets the overall policies and plan of the town and make sure the principles of community policing are applied throughout the department. In addition, the management team is responsible for the professional development of staff.
The department reports to the Amherst Board of Police Commissioners, a six-member board consisting of three members of town council and three citizen appointees. The board helps the chief determine the department’s priorities and goals, recommends policy, administrative and organizational direction for the management of the police service, while ensuring the community’s values and needs are reflected in the department’s goals and objectives.