The Yale Police Department, at a hearing before the Freedom of Information Commission last week, released information its union requested months ago.
But the YPD did not grant a request made by the union in July to release the original documentation of salaries and expenditures by top-ranking YPD officials. Instead, at the three-hour hearing last Wednesday, the University provided spreadsheets that it says show the same information.
The same commission ruled last year that because Yale’s police officers have authority throughout the city and have the power to make felony arrests, the department must disclose all public records and files on request.
Union members said they are far from satisfied with the spreadsheets. Simons said the union is not claiming Yale is lying, but that it has a right to make sure for itself. Union lawyers argue that there can be no gray area: because the commission considers the YPD a functionally public organization, all of its documents — not just information contained on them — should be released.
The YPD says it is not a public institution and does not have to release data unrelated to its law enforcement functions. In particular, YPD Chief James A. Perrotti has hired his own attorney specifically to prevent his salary from being disclosed.
“Yale is a private university, a private entity. The Yale police is a police department providing a public service,” University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said Tuesday. “To the extent that they’re providing a public service, they should give out documents [involving only that service].”
The spreadsheets that Yale did provide show the total amounts spent for each rank, but not individual salaries of officers, Simons said. That information, the University said, is personal and not covered under the Freedom of Information Act.
Still, until last February, Yale claimed that all YPD documents were private.
Deputy University Secretary Martha Highsmith, who oversees security matters, told the News in December 2007 that “The Yale Police Department is a private law enforcement agency. Basically we’re a private entity whereas the New Haven Police Department is a public entity.”
Two months later, the Freedom of Information Commission ruled unanimously that the YPD is functionally a public organization and therefore is subject to full public disclosure.
This July, the Yale police union requested the salaries of top-ranked YPD officials, who are not members of the union. When Yale refused, Tom Hennick, a mediator with the Freedom of Information Commission, attempted to settle the matter. So far, the two sides have not come to an agreement and another hearing is planned in the coming weeks, Simons said.
A representative for the Freedom of Information Commission declined to comment because it has not decided on the issue.
Simons said that Yale has argued that the union only wants the information to improve its position the next time it negotiates contracts with the YPD.
“Yeah, it’s for the negotiations,” Simons said. “We want to know what’s going on. If they’re spending money on top officials and not giving cops a break, there’s a problem.”
Highsmith declined to comment for this article, saying she could not comment on “something under review.”
In 2003, similar cases decided that Cornell University’s Police Department is a public organization and that Harvard University’s is a private one.