Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts ’01 and captain of the New Haven Police Department’s Internal Affairs unit Denise Blanchard fielded questions at a meeting that packed the Dwight Hall Library Thursday afternoon.
Around 30 students present at the meeting handed in official complaint forms for what they claimed was police misconduct during a Saturday morning raid of the Morse-Stiles Screw at Elevate Lounge, Blanchard said. Detectives will try to contact all students filing complaints by Monday, Smuts said in an interview after the meeting. The meeting followed up onMayor John DeStefano Jr.’s promisesearlier this week to foster a dialogue between upset students and city officials,
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Investigation intoclaims of police brutality was originally slated to begin today, but because ofschedule conflicts with students who were supposed to be interviewed, investigators will instead begin conducting interviews in the middle of next week, Blanchard said.
“It will help us piece the night together,” she said.
Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry is also compiling student complaints and forwarding them to Blanchard’s unit.
Despite the large outcry from students and attention from national media, including CBS, ABC and the New York Times, Blanchard said Internal Affairs will follow standard protocol throughout the investigation. She disputed claims that the number of complaints received will influence the investigation in any way.
In contrast, DeStefano said Tuesday that if more students voiced their complaints, the city would investigate the incident more thoroughly.
Even if student claims of police brutality are vindicated after the investigation, Police Chief Frank Limon’s maximum authority is to suspend an officer for 15 days. The case would then be sent to the seven-member Board of Police Commissioners, who are appointed to three-year terms by DeStefano.
Smuts said the Internal Affairs investigation could yield several outcomes. For one, he said, detectives could conclude that no improper behavior took place during the compliance check. The other possibility, he added, would be to discipline individual officers who are found responsible for misconduct.
After Thursday’s meeting, though, many questions remained unanswered. When one student asked why he, an underage student, was not asked to take a breathalyzer test after an officer checked his ID, Smuts was unable to respond. Many answers, Smuts and Blanchard said, won’t be available before official arrest records are released and the investigation is completed. They added that they have not established a timetable for the investigation.
Morse Freshman Counselor Tully McLoughlin ’11, who has been involved with coordinating the student body’s response to the raid, said he thought city officials responded too generally to students’ questions and wanted more specific answers.
“One of the biggest questions we have is knowing how to get beyond the process of filing complaints and more into a way of addressing a pattern of possible misuse of force,” he said.
Ward 1 Alderman Michael Jones ’11, who organized Thursday’s meeting, originally meant for students to meet at Phelps Gate and walk to the NHPD headquarters on Union Avenue, complaints in hand, to deliver their forms to Internal Affairs. Instead, Jones said he decided an intimate meeting would be more conducive to starting a dialogue between students and police department officials. The walk would not have afforded students the opportunity to speak with those responsible for the investigation, he added.
DeStefano said he, too, is working to keep relations between students and city officials amicable during the investigation. After meeting with city officials Tuesday night, DeStefano met with Jones, six students from Stiles and six from Morse so *they could express their concerns directly with him, he said. He called the tensions between students and the NHPD after last weekend’s raid “an opportunity to get to know one another better.”
“Yale College is part of the community,” he said. “I don’t think the police department has a view of Yale students any different from Quinnipiac students, different from the residents of Newhallville, different from the businesses downtown or the residents of Morris Cove.”
Everett Rosenfeld contributed reporting.