In the 42-second Elevate raid video, a motionless Jordan Jefferson ’13 lies on the floor surrounded by several cops.
“You’re f—-d,” a policeman says repeatedly.
“Nine months in prison,” another one adds.
“Nine months for what?” a girl next to the videographer asks rhetorically.
The mumbling crowd is then silenced by the shouts of Officer Justin Marshall, Officer Matthew Abbate and Lieutenant Thaddeus Reddish.
“Who’s next?” an officer yells.
“Anybody else?” a man in S.W.A.T. gear adds.
For days after the Elevate raid, students filed complaints with Captain Denise Blanchard and the New Haven Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit. Thirty-seven students and other community members submitted written accounts of their experiences at Elevate, expecting that the University and the New Haven Police Department would take their statements seriously.
As Dean Mary Miller wrote to Yale students in an Oct. 3 email: “We know that many students have experienced a very disturbing event. We have heard their voices, and we are committed to pursuing an appropriate resolution of the issues.”
The University provided a lawyer, attorney Patrick Noonan, to assist student witnesses during the Internal Affairs investigation, while providing a space on campus for the IA Unit to conduct interviews. Over five months later, the IA report was finally released. It recognized the illegitimacy of orders to prevent cell phone use during the Elevate raid — this contributed indirectly to the complete dismissal of my charge of interfering with police. More importantly, it informed the cops that, yes, civilians can use their videocameras.
However, we should not view the findings of the Internal Affairs investigation as an “appropriate resolution of the issues.” Student accounts were not taken with the same gravity as police testimonies and there were clear disagreements between the police and student descriptions of the Tasing incident — yet Sergeant J. Wolcheski concluded that excessive force was not used. He claimed that Jordan had actively resisted arrest, something refuted by many student witnesses.
Sergeant Wolcheski clearly did not read the arrest reports of Seth Bannon and Steven Winter ’11, whose charges are still pending. He writes that they were arrested for interfering with an officer. In reality, Bannon and Winter are each charged with one count of disorderly conduct and one count of trespassing.
But I am most disturbed by the testimony of Lieutenant Reddish. Reddish gives a far different depiction of the Tasing incident than anyone else, save Officer Abbate. He describes excessive use of profanity by students, while depicting an all-out fight between Jordan and several officers. Seated directly next to Jordan, I had a clear view of the entire “struggle” that Reddish attempts to portray.
Reddish and Abbate seem to believe that Jordan was somehow capable of slapping officers and knocking out Taser cartridges near the top of his back, while he was faced forward with his hands at the small of his back.
Besides the impracticality of “knocking out” a Tasing cartridge with one’s hands behind one’s back, the claimed removal of the cartridge wouldn’t have mattered. A Taser in drive-stun mode does not require the use of an air cartridge. Most policemen who claimed to have witnessed the altercation insinuated that Jordan “tensed up” and “flexed his muscles.” According to the IA report, a member of the New Haven Police Explorers program stated that he did not see anyone struck during the struggle and that Abbate’s Taser cartridge fell out without interference by Jordan.
Reddish’s police report is dated Oct. 2, 2010, the night after the raid, rather than its actual completion date of Oct. 4, 2010. He claims that he “did not finish it until Monday morning because it was a supplement to the arrest.” However, his propensity for directly quoting students’ allegedly profane statements during the raid would lead you to believe that he taped the proceedings or wrote everything down immediately following the event. While several students indicated that the men in S.W.A.T. gear — Reddish and Officer Robert Strickland — were overly aggressive and used excessive amounts of profanity, the lieutenant’s verbal commands were not questioned by those in charge of the IA investigation.
In reality, Jordan showed no indication of resisting arrest. He placed his hands directly behind his back as Abbate asked him to stand up. I saw no indication of resistance, nor of him “bracing, tensing, pushing; or verbally signaling an intention to avoid or prevent being taken into custody by using force,” which Wolcheski states are forms of active resistance warranting use of Tasers and fists.
Upon reviewing Wolcheski’s report, Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts ’01 criticized the police’s poor leadership, training and understanding of the ability to use cell phones during an inspection. He stated, “That there were a significant number of civilians who testified about officer use of profanity in stark opposition to the testimony of all officers present is a problem of some kind, particularly notable since the issue at hand — use of profanity — is justifiable in this context.”
While he states that there is no evidence supporting student claims of officer profanity, in the YouTube video written off by Wolcheski and Smuts, the listener can clearly hear officers standing over Jordan on the dance floor yelling “You’re f—-d” and “That’s nine months,” a claim both Tully McLoughlin ’11 and Marty Evans ’11 made in their testimonies.
That New Haven police officers were willing to lie on tape about something as unsubstantial as profanity use should make community members question their credibility. The investigation is far from over, and the problematic IA report has not solved the problems plaguing our city’s police department.
So, Dean Miller: You have heard our voices, and you claim to be committed to pursuing an appropriate resolution of the issues. Well then, make your next move.
Zachary Fuhrer is a senior in Ezra Stiles College and a former Arts & Living editor for the News.