Union says chief put police at risk

University administrators received a letter from the Yale police union yesterday alleging University Police Chief James Perrotti and his management team jeopardized the safety of officers by not informing them of the presence of a potentially dangerous police officer on campus.

The Yale Police Benevolent Association, which represents 55 officers and detectives, drafted a letter stating that police administrators disregarded officer safety when they failed to inform subordinate officers of the investigation into East Windsor police officer Rafael Crespo Jr., prior to his Feb. 4 arrest on charges of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a graduate student.

The YPBA letter also expressed dissatisfaction with police administrators, particularly Perrotti, for withholding from them that Crespo had allegedly made threats to kill police officers, as stated in his arrest warrant affidavit.

“The YPBA finds it amazing and unacceptable that our members had to learn of Crespo’s threats to kill police officers from a newspaper article,” the letter read, referring to an article in the New Haven Register. “Specifically, Mr. Crespo is quoted as saying that ‘[h]e would not go to jail; he would kill her, any police and then himself.’”

The letter requests that Yale initiate an independent investigation of the handling of the Crespo case, and recommended that the University’s Police Advisory Board or the New Haven Board of Police Commissioners should conduct the inquiry.

YPBA chief steward Christopher Morganti said police officers receive bulletin pictures of the citizens accused of committing crimes, often prior to their arrests. He said he did not understand why this course of action was not taken in Crespo’s case.

“We could have probably kept an eye out for him,” Morganti said. “We check the parking lots all the time.”

Morganti said Crespo’s arrest warrant states that several of the encounters between Crespo and the graduate student whom he is accused of attacking took place in the Hall of Graduate Studies, where, according to the YPBA letter, one union member encountered Crespo and the victim arguing in November 2004.

“These incidents occurred on campus and the police patrol unit was never told about them,” Morganti said. “So this really put our officers at risk if they were to run into Crespo. We really could have had a tragedy, because when we run into police officers and they’re off-duty, we pretty much believe they’re the good guys.”

University Secretary Linda Lorimer received the YPBA letter early yesterday afternoon but said she could not yet comment on its contents.

“This matter will be reviewed very thoroughly,” Lorimer said. “But it would be premature to comment before all the facts are gathered. I can say that the safety and welfare of Yale police officers have always been top priorities for me, and I know for Chief Perrotti.”

Perrotti could not be reached yesterday, while University Police Lt. Michael Patten declined to comment.

Morganti said union members decided to go above police administration to the University because they felt any investigation into the problem should be conducted outside the police department.

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