Change to Yale security challenged

Yale security officers will be increasingly replacing police officers on patrol around campus.
Yale security officers will be increasingly replacing police officers on patrol around campus. Photo by Phillipp Arndt.

Amid continued concerns over crime surrounding the University’s campus, the Yale Police Benevolent Association, or YPBA, the labor union representing the Yale Police Department, condemned new administrative policy on police and security deployment, which they said jeopardizes student safety.

Tensions between Yale’s police force and the University administration, two parties who have had a tumultuous relationship for more than a decade, were apparent in a YPBA statement released Sunday that criticized changes in the way Yale’s police and security staff are assigned to patrol dangerous areas around campus. Since Sept. 9, Yale has reassigned security officers, who traditionally are posted inside university facilities, to street patrol roles in areas including Howe Street and Lynwood Place. That duty has typically been assigned to Yale’s police officers, who are professionally trained to patrol these “line beats” and carry firearms.

Janet Lindner, the associate vice president for administration who oversees Yale police and security, said the change resulted from tightened budget conditions and will not threaten student safety. The police union, however, claims that replacing trained officers with unarmed security officers who cannot make arrests is misleading and endangers student safety.

“The choice for Yale is clear: protect the lives of its students by deploying trained, professional law enforcement officers or be cheap and try to do the job with unarmed security officers who possess little training and cannot make arrests,” the union statement said. “Indeed, security officers may well be victimized along with the Yale students and employees they are tasked with protecting.”

Lindner said she asked the security department to review its deployment strategy earlier in the year, and it concluded a “more visible” presence would make better use of resources. She added students have expressed that they feel safer and appreciate seeing more security personnel.

But the union said this appearance is misrepresentative: While security guards wear officer uniforms with conspicuous fluorescent shirts, they are not sworn police officers.

“I think the University is trying to create the perception that there are more cops outside than there are,” Officer Elias Roman, vice president of the YPBA said. “I’m sure students might see them and believe they are cops.”

According to the University’s website, Yale Security guards are responsible for the physical security of campus buildings, providing safe escorts, assisting with lockouts and supporting the activities of the Yale Police department. Lindner said security officers have been able to provide key assistance to police since being posted outside in the last month, adding that security guards have enabled several “significant” arrests recently.

As a result of increased external deployment, the union said many campus buildings and facilities, including the Amistad Garage, the Pierson-Sage Garage, the Prospect-Sachem Garage and six parking lots now lack security guards.

Roman said police officers are unhappy with the change because rising crime around campus has made police presence all the more crucial. In addition, he said officers have seen a cut in their paychecks, as many of the “line-beats” were previously conducted off-duty.

Roman said the union plans to file an unfair labor practices complaint against the University.

“It should be us patrolling the streets,” Roman said. “The University is trying to push us out of our duties.”

Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins could not be reached for comment.

Student reaction to the press release was mixed: seven students interviewed said they were not too concerned by the news, but five students expressed reservations over the long-term implications the changes could have on campus safety.

While Gerard Kuenning ’14 said he did not feel this change would affect his personal sense of security, he added that the redeployment did not seem to be well thought out.

“It seems risky,” he said. “I don’t know much about how tight the budget it, but safety seems like the last thing you’d want to pull money from.”

Jaya Robillard ’15 said she has never felt a “particularly strong presence or absence” of police officers on campus. Robillard added that she is not concerned about the “subtle” distinction between security officers and Yale police.

“If you find a Yale security officer, they’re going to call a Yale police officer anyway,” she said.

The Yale Police Force has 87 sworn officers.

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