Not one Yale undergraduate showed up Tuesday evening for the first session of the Yale University Police Relations Academy.
The New Haven Police Department event at the city’s Police Academy on Sherman Parkway was open not just to Yalies but also to students from the University of New Haven, but only saw 20 attendees. The event is the first of three sessions offered this semester as part of Operation Get Connected, a community outreach program initiated in response to the Oct. 2 Elevate raid, said Cpt. Joann Peterson. She said that the low attendance was because the event took place near the end of the academic year, adding that she hopes numbers will pick up when students return in September.
“I was hoping it was going to be a bigger turnout, but it’s understandable based on the time of the year — I know finals are going to be happening soon,” she said. “But I wanted to make sure we had Yale University Police Relations Academy now because I didn’t want relations to drop off.”
While Peterson said some Yalies might have been deterred by the location of the Police Academy — Sherman Parkway is in a neighborhood that has high rates of criminal activity — she hoped to have the two remaining sessions of this semester on Yale’s campus. The second Police Relations Academy planned for the fall would improve upon the first and hopefully attract students at a less busy time, she added.
In the first session, Detective Charlette Barham of the Internal Affairs Department and Lt. Julie Johnson, who heads the Special Investigations Unit, explained to audience members how their respective departments work and encouraged engagement between police, students and the wider community.
Barham, who said her department, which oversees homicide and high-profile criminal investigations, sees about 12 to 15 cases every month, stressed the importance of citizens coming forward and filing a complaint if they feel their police officers have done them wrong. She handed out a copy of the civilian complaint form to all attendees.
Johnson and Barham’s presentations were designed to familiarize the audience with police procedures and make them feel more comfortable about operations, Peterson said, adding the NHPD is “not a rogue department” and exists to enforce the law.
“There are a few bad apples that give all of us a bad name,” she said to the attendees. “One of the reasons we have you here is to convince you we’re not all like that.”
Audience members included four students from the University of New Haven, two Yale graduate students and two Yale Police Department members who said they were not in attendance on an official capacity. The other 12 were participants in the New Haven Police Explorers program — a program for 14 to 21 year olds that replicates the actual Police Academy to build a bridge between the youth and the police, according to participant Jamarr Daniels.
Daniels said he found the talks informative and relevant, though other participants in the New Haven Explorers program said the presentations were overly long and too detailed.
The next session of the inaugural Yale University Police Relations Academy takes place next Tuesday, and will feature talks on YPD and NHPD relations and the NHPD’s relations with the public.