1October 17, 2012Chief John H. HorvathUMass Amherst Police Department585 East Pleasant StreetAmherst, MA 01003-9600
Re: M.G.L. c. 138, §68
Dear Chief Horvath:
Thank you for hosting yesterday evening’s community meeting, and for striving
(togetherwith the Amherst Police Department) to keep the peace and enforce the laws in our community.As a parent, local attorney, and alumnus of the University, I am grateful for your service and thatof your officers. So I apologize for having failed, as a member of this community, to maintain afundamental social norm that is essential to effective policing, namely the norm that putsassaulting an officer beyond the pale.An attack on a police officer is outrageous in and of itself. But it also representscontempt for the community those officers are sworn to protect. As I mentioned at the meeting, Ibelieve that the recent spate of attacks on police officers indicates that we have now crossed animportant line, and that as a community we are in danger of acquiescing in
and thereby tacitlycondoning
a new norm. I would like to help re-establish some reasonable expectations and,because the vast majority of public order offenses (including assaults on officers) are alcohol-related, ask you to consider the following:
In cases of “riot or great public excitement” the Select Board has the authority to order
the holders of liquor licenses not to sell, give away, or deliver alcoholic beverages for up to threedays (M.G.L. c. 138, §8). So far as I know, no Amherst Select Board has ever used its powerunder this legislation. Given the failure of current policies to prevent the uptick in violence, Ibelieve that the current Board should now prepare to do so, and to ask their counterparts inHadley and other neighboring towns to do likewise. Even if other communities do notcollaborate, a temporary alcohol ban in Amherst alone could help reduce the number and scale of disturbances. So while a joint approach would be ideal, Amherst should prepare to go it alone.
You are in a unique position to determine whether “great public excitement” is imminent.