In the 1980s, drug dealers had footholds in many New Haven neighborhoods, and criminals shot out street lights, seeking darkness for their illegal activities. Crimes often went unreported, and many neighborhoods felt disconnected from the police.
Before former New Haven Mayor John Daniels was elected in 1989, the city’s police force was fighting an uphill battle against these problems. But at a research presentation at Luce Hall yesterday, Yale teaching and research assistant Hubert Ngatcha Njila described the methods Daniels used to strengthen the New Haven Police Department and improve the quality of life in the community.
Njila came to New Haven in 1998 to study the nature of the city’s power and politics. Advised by numerous people to research Daniels’ legacy of reforms, Njila focused his studies upon the relationship between New Haven’s politics and its policing.
“John Daniels tried to change the system from inside,” Njila said, “It was a revolution from the top.”
Shortly after his election to office in 1989, Daniels revamped the New Haven police force by instituting what has come to be known as community-based policing. He bolstered police presence within neighborhoods that had previously been neglected because of the city’s limited resources. Throughout the process, the mayor faced strong opposition from city police.
“Although Daniels had a large coalition base of whites, blacks and Hispanics, he faced considerable resistance from the police force,” Njila said. “Over 40 percent of the force resigned because they didn’t want to follow the decision of the city’s new leader. Many police simply did not want to go into the neighborhoods, meet the families, or get involved with the community.”
But Daniels eventually succeeded in pushing his agenda through and, in doing so, successfully revived a dying police campaign.
“It is true that community-based policing was important for improving relations between neighborhoods within the city of New Haven,” Njila said. “Before community-based policing, it was difficult for neighborhood residents and police enforcement to communicate effectively about issues that were affecting their families.”
He added that with the increase of neighborhood police substations and aided by a stronger economy, community-based policing helped reduce crime rates significantly.
Born in Cameroon, and educated in France, Njila has dedicated his educational career to the study of political science. Interested in the behavior of political leaders, he has focused his efforts upon the effects American politics has had on the welfare of inner-city citizens.
Though many of his contemporaries concentrated on African political tradition, Njila parted with these cultural trends and sought to study Western politics.
“I became interested in America because a lot of Africans were studying African politics,” Njila said, “I wanted to go farther by studying Western countries and seeing how I could apply my knowledge.”