Officers in Elevate raid do not deserve punishment, report says

UPDATED: 7:11 p.m. Police officers involved in the controversial Oct. 2 raid on the Morse-Stiles screw on Elevate Lounge did nothing deserving of punishment, City Hall Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts ’01 found after reviewing the completed Internal Affairs investigation.

Smuts submitted the report on the investigation along with his recommendations to the Board of Police Commissioners today. The Board will decide whether to implement any disciplinary measures, but in the mean time, the report was opened to the public.

This announcement signals the end of a months-long investigation into the New Haven Police Department’s conduct at the raid, an event which sent the campus into uproar over allegations of police brutality during what was billed as a routine liquor inspection.

New Haven Police Department Chief Frank Limon held a press conference today at 4 p.m. at the NHPD’s Union Avenue headquarters where he took full responsibility for his department’s failings on the evening of the raid, and pledged that the force will continue to improve its training and procedures.

In a Thursday memo accompanying the release of the IA report, Smuts outlined five areas of concern. The press release stated:

1) Inadequate planning and supervision of the inspection.

2) Inadequate control of the space during the inspection largely resulting from lack of communication to civilians during the inspection.

3) Lack of a clear policy regarding cell phone usage during an inspection; inadequate training for officers on this policy; and lack of clear communication to the public the reasons for the policy and need to comply.

4) Lack of clarification and training on when escalation of verbal commands, including the use of profanity, is appropriate.

5) It is very concerning that almost all civilians but not one officer testified that officers used profanity. While profanity may have been permissible, the complete denial that it occurred – in the face of significant testimony that it did – is troubling.

In addition to these concerns, the memo included four recommendations for how the NHPD could improve its practices:

1) Ensure proper planning on all inspections.

o Proper planning encompasses training of all officers involved in an inspection, adequate staffing (there is no reason to press forward on an inspection if there is any concern that adequate personnel are not available), collecting all knowledge of the space and situation that is readily and reasonably available and incorporating it into plans before the operation starts, and an established chain-of-command that is necessary to adequately respond to genuine surprises.

2) Improve communication.

o During an inspection, clear and consistent instructions are critical but so are basic explanations about what is happening, how long it will take and other information that will enhance cooperation and the overall experience of the public.

3) Develop/review polices and training material regarding:

o Cell phone usage by members of the public during interactions with police officers,

o Recording device usage by members of the public during interactions with police officers, and

o Use of escalating verbal commands including profanity as part of the continuum of force.

4) Address gap between officer and civilian view of police

behavior.

o It is troubling to have such divergent accounts of police behavior, most notably about whether profanity was used.

o These measures might include, but not be limited to: trust-building exchanges between officers and members of the public (including the students involved in this incident, as well as the broader community); technology such as patrol car cameras that can establish an objective truth of an interaction; and policies and training that can enhance trust and accountability. The premise should be that better establishing the objective truth of a situation should be to the broad benefit of our officers (as long as it is understood in the context of the complicated and life-or-death situations that officers confront on a daily basis).

Five students were arrested at the incident, including one who was hospitalized after police used a Taser on him.

Correction: March 3, 2011

An earlier version of this article stated that the NHPD officers will not face any disciplinary measures for the Elevate raid, when in fact the Board of Police Commissioners has not yet met to discuss possible punishment.

Comments

  • FreddyHoneychurch

    Surprise, surprise.

  • Elifan

    Despicable. Students are coerced, threatened and manhandled and all the police need is better communication skills? A complete whitewash. Just no accountability, disgusting.

  • bb11

    This is ridiculous!

  • phantomllama

    Just another day in the life of the world-class city of New Haven, and its equally distinguished police force. Expect the officers to be given commendations soon.

  • Yalemama

    As the parent of a Yale student, I am appalled and worried about my child living in a city with this type of police force. I certainly hope the administration steps in and uses its remarkable talents to let the city know that this type of behavior will not be tolerated — against Yale students OR New Haven residents. Otherwise, what is the difference between New Haven and Cairo or Tripoli? Honestly, someone has got to “step up” here and speak the truth! Police brutality is unlawful and despicable and a mold that will continue to grow unless smart, brave people stand up to it.

  • jnewsham

    Indeed, what IS the difference between New Haven and Cairo? I mean, besides the fact that no one was kidnapped by police and tortured that evening, no buildings were looted, no rock-throwing fights were started, DeStefano is no autocrat, and no one is gathering in the streets demanding accountability.
    But, jokes aside, I am pretty shocked at this conclusion.

  • yalie13

    This is insulting.

  • Yalemama

    The student who was tased several times, requiring hospitalization overnight, may disagree with your contention that no one was tortured that night.

  • The Anti-Yale

    It is a strategy of Bureaucracies at least as far back as the 1970′s to wait to release reports which could create student protest until the day before students go on vacation .
    It works.