This week may carry grave consequences for the relationship between the New Haven Police Department and the Yale community — not to mention its own officers.
On Thursday, the police union will hold a “no-confidence” vote — the second time in four months such a vote has been considered — concerning the leadership of chief Frank Limon and his deputies. Even more disappointingly, it has been less than a year since Limon took the department reins.
Compounding police pressure, on Friday, pre-trial proceedings related to the NHPD’s Oct. 2 raid on Elevate Lounge will reveal whether the department has finally concluded its sluggish internal investigation into police brutality. The investigation has dragged on even as the officer in charge of the raid resigned this month. The officer, Ariel Melendez, has been associated with other recent police controversies as well.
On campus, few are still talking about the Elevate raid, which will celebrate its unhappy four-month anniversary Wednesday. The buzz around the arrest of five undergraduates has died down, and the ensuing debates over whether Yalies expect special treatment or whether the city’s “Operation Nightlife” was misguided have also mostly subsided. But for those students who were arrested — our friends and classmates — the ongoing judicial process has been frustratingly slow. The prosecution has now requested no fewer than four continuations since the original Oct. 18 court date. For at least some of the defendants, Friday’s proceedings will mark their seventh appearance before a judge in connection with the incident.
The only reason for this absurd judicial delay is the NHPD’s stubbornly and suspiciously slow internal investigation. The Internal Affairs report on the incident has taken far too long. The longer we wait, the more doubts are cast upon the police’s behavior during the incident. Despite having all the necessary evidence at their disposal, and after repeated assurances that the report was progressing, the investigation still isn’t, in the words of Capt. Denise Blanchard, “wrapping up.”
It is high time for the NHPD to come clean and release the findings of their internal investigation. It is the only way to restore our community’s trust in our police force, as well as our classmates’ peace of mind.
Unfortunately, whether the internal report will prove damning is, at this point, mostly irrelevant to campus perception. The NHPD already has enough difficulty maintaining our community’s faith in its ability to protect and serve, and our campus will be no less wary of NHPD officers in the future. But by releasing its report, the department can at least bring a shred of accountability to the worst town-gown disaster in recent memory.
For their own sake, this newspaper hopes the NHPD will see Thursday’s vote — however it turns out — as a wakeup call. Mistrust of the police is clearly not limited to a few Ivy League students who think they’ve been handled too roughly. In fact, it extends to local organizations, individual citizens and those within the department’s very ranks. We all know that New Haven is far from a perfect city. For Yale students, to whom this place may be relatively unfamiliar, the work of the police is all the more valued. But without the confidence of our community, the NHPD cannot possibly hope to be the guarantors of our security. This week offers an opportunity to begin rebuilding the trust that has been lost.