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.

Comments

  • Dowager

    It’s Yale’s policy of refusing to challenge the presence of people who are clearly not part of the “university landscape”, in order to be PC, that jeopardizes the student body and faculty the most.

  • Sara

    The best thing Yale (and New Haven) can do to improve safety: Lay off more police officers, and use the savings to dramatically expand the walking patrols of parasecurity and Downtown Ambassadors. Expand these patrols well beyond the border of campus. Criminals will get the idea and go to Hamden, instead of driving up the crime rate a few blocks from campus.

    The campus is safe, but venture a few blocks off in certain directions and there are some huge issues.

    We need more “boots on the ground”, not more high paid unionized officers. Camden just laid off its ENTIRE police department so it could replace them with a much larger nonunionized force.

    • towngown83

      I’m curious as to what “parasecurity” is. Yale’s own Blackwater?

  • yeahright

    Sara,

    #1 Camden has not laid off their entire police force yet but they are talking about it.
    #2 They are not being replaced by a non-unionized force they are being replaced by a county wide agency called the “Camden Metro Police division” and they will be unionized. http://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/index.ssf/2012/10/state_approves_camden_county_p.html
    #3 if you think you are safe on campus you are delusional.
    #4 What is a downtown ambassador going to do if someone is getting robbed or assaulted? What is a Security Officer going to do if someone is getting robbed or beaten? They will eventually have to call the police which will take time or do you think it would be safer to have more police, who can actually do something present?

  • concerned

    Yale University is an institution with excessive amounts of money–mostly obtained from other people’s donations. When spenders of this money are mandated to cut budgets, unless they have a real grasp of the mission you will see them try pulling shorts on things like security to pocket the difference, i.e. implement the mandated budget cuts while attempting the appearance of full spending. With so much money at hand, (check an annual budget) spending cuts for the right priorities is normally a poorly exercised skill. Clearly, places like the campus need to be secured, or they are not. The government, airport authorities and the TSA do what it takes to secure publicly accessed airports and they have succeeded in this mission. The campus needs to maintain the same successful mission for the primary well-being of students who are here while at the same time respecting public access to city streets. This is a police function. So be well aware of the personal consequences of uninformed campus spending cuts, especially those involving security.

  • rjhdad

    It appears to me that Ms. Lindner, who may or may not have any law enforcement experiece, has decided to put every single person on that campus at a huge risk. Replacing police officers who are trained and experieced with security guards who lack the proper training to deal with a variety of potential explosive situations is just a poor management decision. Yale is a very prestigious college who prides itself on the product (students) that it puts out. Their academic program is one of the best. As a result of this poor decision, crime which is already bad, will worsen. I hope Ms. Lindner is ready to deal with the consequences of her decision when a student is brutally beaten, raped or killed. What about the the enitre Yale University staff members? Has Ms. Linder even consulted with department heads to get there feeling on the matter? I mean some of them do walk blocks to there cars at night. It’s not just the students safety that is being put at risk, it is aslo the staff, from the custodians, professors, various department heads and support staff for those departments. Ms Lindner herself may fall prey to an unknown assailant. My point is, the police are there for a reason and have been trained to handle certain situations, omnipresence is a deterrant to crime. Omnipresence with TRAINED police officers, not security guards. A security guard is just going to call the police anyway, but the response will be delayed and could be the difference between life and death. Let the police continue to police, they know what they are doing. The only thing this ridiculous decision is going to do jeapordize safety. Management should not be micromanaging into an area they know nothing about. All they see are dollar signs. No amount of money should be put on anybody’s safety. Put the cops back out on the street and the security guards back inside.

    • towngown83

      Omnipresence would require me to have my own personal police officer at Yale, no? A cop on every corner? How about crime inside the buildings? Shouldn’t we have cops inside buildings instead of security, or are Yale buildings sacrosanct in your world? Are the cops going to do the walking escorts we call for? If they’re so concerned about safety on campus shouldn’t they be driving the escort cars then? Oh no, that’s not police work they’ll say, they are far too good to do that. Which throws your argument and thiers right back on the old, “we’ve been cut out of easy cash” argument from the union. Thanks, but the New Haven PD would have the same argument in regards to the Yale PD.

  • Tracker

    Regardless of the city’s budget, the universary can hire real police officiers with it’s own funds (think, big group events you attend where real cops are present).

    Secondly, if you believe that security patrols are a good idea, I give you 2 words: George Zimmerman.

    • Dowager

      Zimmerman took out a thug. The media and race baiters turned into a circus. What is your point?

    • towngown83

      I can list any number of police officers who have brutalized citizens in the past several weeks. How has the current police presence curtailed crime on and near campus? Equating security guards at Yale with George Zimmerman is just loathsome.

  • Claire

    Dowager, you seem to be missing the point. As I understand it, Zimmerman was specifically not allowed to carry a firearm while on duty. That was his employer’s policy. He DID carry a firearm and was clearly not a trained police officer. The result was a death. You may not care for the victim (which, frankly, is ridiculous since I’m fairly certain you didn’t know him and so aren’t qualified to pass judgment), but you should be intelligent enough to put 2 and 2 together. The death of a young black man may not matter to you, but there is something very wrong with the state of affairs in this country when a death – any death – seems like not so big a deal. Nobody can say what would have happened if a trained police officer had been there instead of Zimmerman – it may have ended the same way – but the point is that a police officer would have been prepared and trained to handle the situation more appropriately than a security guard.

    Honestly, I feel safer knowing there is a security guard in sight when I walk to my parking lot at the end of the day, particularly in the winter when it’s dark out very early. However, there have been so many muggings in New Haven lately that I can’t help but wonder what an unarmed security guard would be able to do if someone approached with a gun. My guess is that the security guard, like myself, would be at the mercy of the attacker, so I’m at a loss to explain how that makes us all safer. (And I’m not advocating for armed security guards – I think this is a job for the police.)

    The University is trying to save a buck here. They’ve cut jobs, they’ve cut the benefits package of non-union employees to the point of insult and now they’re cutting away the professionals who put their lives on the line to protect ours, all during a time of unprecedentedly successful fundraising. If you’re not upset about this, then you obviously don’t understand what’s at stake.

    • towngown83

      Why even bring the Zimmerman case into this? He wasn’t acting as a security guard when the incident occured. Are we debating security, or the fact that Yale’s private police force has lost a lucrative overtime position? Cutting away the professionals? How many Yale Police have been laid off? You feel safer with a guard in sight, but really want an armed police officer standing on every corner. If having the current number of Yale police working overtime doing line patrols was the solution, we shouldn’t have had any crime then- should we? Seems that once again Yale’s private police are barking up the wrong tree to protect thier own private cash cow.

      • Dowager

        Agreed.

    • Dowager

      Zimmerman was not AT WORK. He was on neighborhood patrol where he was totally within his rights to carry a gun (check Florida gun rights facts). IF the issue was REALLY about the death of a young black male, we need look no further than the streets of Chicago or Detroit, where young black males are gunned down DAILY by other young black males. Do you hear the sort of outcry about those deaths, from the media and Sharpton et al, compared to the media onslaught from ONE death re: Zimmerman? No. I reiterate this was media hype and race baiting, pure and simple; up to and including the new term coined by the NY Times “white hispanic”. HOWEVER, none of this has ANYTHING to do with the article. That, was my point.

  • Ace96

    Yale determines what is “ethically needed.”  Sometimes by those who sit in an office and never worked out in the field but hey…its Yale. Security has to be state certified as I was informed. From my understanding, security has training as the police. Maybe not to the same extent but it’s training. The only thing I do notice, security across the nation (as I travel a lot), those in the hospitals and those in the private sector (as Yale is private as well), carry something to protect themselves if need be.  Baton, some type of spray? Why does yale not do this with its own, that is I don’t know? Anything can happen any given day at any given place. Yale is not the acceptation! I recall reading about the law school bombing years ago, Annie Le, and many students being assaulted. I think between the police and security or it’s “public safety department,” they should be well prepared with the proper training and the tools they need to do the job for every situation…It is Yale for Gods sake! They should be the best of the best and get the best training as I would hope. Hands on as how to defend themselves. How to use their tool belt. They are safeguarding our future congressmen, doctors and presidents. I would hate to think Yale would put those who safeguard it community and property at risk by not being prepared. Police and security should work well together in keeping all of Yale safe may it be inside or outside. 

    • towngown83

      The state certification is an 8 hour class. But many of the security staff are retired police, corrections and ex-military. From speaking with some it’s apparent training is certainly lacking but that seems to be the norm. We do have armed security, they’re called the Yale Police Department. They are our very own private police force, the only ones in the state. If this were any other private university in Connecticut you’d be thrilled to just have security guards, but Yale gets the nod and a wink to have thier own armed force with police powers. Even Yale New Haven Hospital had it’s police powers stripped away several years ago. Yale has more police and security staff than most towns and cities in the state. The Police Union is unhappy about losing out on money, it’s as simple as that.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Zimmerman was ordered by police radio dispatch to cease and desist. Zimmerman had a record of excessive zeal in previous citizen-patrol incidents. Give a gun to a zealot. Really good idea. John Wilkes Booth would concur. PK

    • towngown83

      And what exactly does this have to do with security on campus?

      • The Anti-Yale

        You haven’t been following the thread?

        • towngown83

          The thread yes, your responses-no.

  • Ace96

    I think antiyale should not comment as you appear to be a dolt!!!! It’s all about safety of the Yale community and what the university offers its students and staff. Students come from all over the world and expect world class safety may it be through security or police. I think it’s beneficial that Yale keeps jobs in the security field. It’s paramount. You can’t put a price tag on safety. Yale has 87 sworn full time officers who dedicate themselves as well all full time security officers. Who would want to attend a university full of crime?

  • Phil123

    Guys, remember Yale is under extreme financial pressure and on top of that they are going to have to replace Levin. Think what that will cost. So why waste money on unionized security, its much better to give their Med students free I-Pads.

  • Ace96

    Yale always cries the blues. Well stop paying these people over 1.4 million a year plus insentives. The problem I have with Yale as a retiree is, every department is top heavy. They always intend to make more positions for more bosses when its not needed. Do you really think they need an assistant to another assistant to an administrative assistant? These jobs are known to be the good ole’ boy network. Hey why waste money on any union here at Yale? Who cares about plumbers, electricians, police, administrative secretaries, those who give you rides late at night who are all unionized for a reason. Yale’s past practices on how they treat people as workers…well they have a bad wrap if you are the regular joe who comes to do work and not kiss up to be set up for a “new position.” it’s not about the union people. It’s about all the supervisors and bosses Yale has. Top heavy! And towards security, in past years when I needed rides from East Rock the police never showed up. When I needed to do anything security was present and full of information. The police never did these things. It was a benefit that other colleague from other universities envied. Well get rid of unionized security and have unionized police pick up employees late night and provide all the services security did. Or as I have been reading, make security safety officers like other universities and merge both police and security. I moved on from Yale but follow all the safety issue as I was once a victim of an assault. To see the extra white shirt security on the street or picking me up was a relief. So before people start talking about cutting safety, you better think twice. The chances of being a victim will be higher if you decrease Yale’s uniformed men and women. Think twice and wisely before making your comments. I loved Yale for many of its services……thank you police and thank you security!