The Patrol Division is the primary functional unit of the Amherst Police Department. Comprised of sixty-four uniformed officers, fifteen lieutenants and two captains, the men and women of the patrol division work to provide around-the-clock services to the 54 square miles of the Town of Amherst and the incorporated Village of Williamsville.
Officers begin their apprenticeship by attending a rigorous, twenty-three week police academy. Upon graduation they enter the department’s Field Training Officer (FTO) program, where for the next ten weeks, they learn how to become an “Amherst” Police Officer. This closely-supervised and highly-structured program allows the “rookie” to work alongside specially trained officers, who are selected not only for their competence, but also for their patience (and understanding). This has been highly successful, allowing the recruit’s skills to mature in an environment designed to be positive as well as pro-active. Following completion of the FTO program, the recruit is then deemed qualified to work alone. The probationary period, however, lasts until the completion of the Officer’s first year, and may be extended to ensure that competency is achieved in all areas.
Despite being the “entry” level position for newly-sworn officers, patrol work is nevertheless the most elemental, demanding, and essential work of police work. Patrol officers are usually the first officers the public comes into contact with. They represent the buffer between lawlessness and order and are indeed “the long blue line” upon which so much rests.
Only after first serving in the patrol division may an officer qualify for promotion to other units within the department. This initial period of service is the most gratifying, and the same time the most dangerous of police tasks. Because of this, many veteran officers never forget the days when they were “on patrol,” and many choose to serve in this capacity throughout their entire careers.
Details within the Patrol Division
Within the patrol division are several special purpose details and specialty units. These assignments permit a change of pace for the officers and also serve vital functions. Two of these highly effective units are the Community Policing Unit (CPU) and the Tactical Bicycle Patrol. Both of these began by the suggestion of patrol officers, implemented by an administration willing to use innovative methods to improve effectiveness.
Community Policing Unit (CPU)
Purpose: The function of the Community Policing Unit is to provide specialized patrol and civic services to targeted areas of the town. It is rooted in the cooperation and credibility of the partnership between the police department and the community. As a consequence of fulfilling fundamental policing functions in the context of the Community Oriented Policing and Problem Oriented Policing philosophies, we envision and are committed to producing these community outcomes:
- A safe and peaceful community with neighborhood pride
- Effective crime prevention and law enforcement
- Swift apprehension of offenders
- No visible signs of disorder
- Intensified police presence to increase the sense of security and to decrease the opportunity to commit crime
- Increased personal contact and accessibility between the police and the citizens they serve
- Effective relationships with the community and other organizations
- Socialization between police officers and youth though recreational activities
- A vital economic climate for business and a cooperative community climate for residents
Tactical Bike Detail employed during the warmer months of the year, utilizes specially-uniformed officers on bicycles, to patrol duties in targeted areas also. Similar to the CPU detail, it is the product of the close officer involvement in their jobs. Because of these details, many potential offenders have been surprised by the unexpected and unconventional arrival of police officers.
As a New York State Accredited agency, the department is committed to the high standards set by its inclusion into this select membership. All sworn officers receive a minimum of 21 hours of training per year, which includes instruction in the Use of Force. In reality the typical officer receives far more than the minimum hours. One lieutenant, a certified police instructor, is assigned solely to the training and accreditation functions. Nine other members of the department, including one civilian dispatcher, are also certified instructors, giving the department a remarkably high ratio of instructors to officers.