Yale students not involved in the Yale College Council have a new opportunity to participate in representative government — by policing the New Haven police.
The Civilian Review Board — a community organization designed to review complaints against New Haven police officers –met Thursday at the Stetson Branch Library in the Dixwell neighborhood. At the meeting, members focused heavily on how to attract more members to the still-burgeoning board, which needs to fill five vacancies. Yale students, members said, could easily fill the void.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. issued an executive order last year to form the controversial board. The New Haven Police Department’s Internal Values and Ethics Division, or IVE, first scrutinizes all complaints, which are then re-examined by the Civilian Review Board. The board recommends appropriate action to the chief of police. Although he is not required to follow the recommendation, the chief must explain his decision in writing if it differs from the board’s.
Currently, the board lacks participants from the East Shore, Downtown and Quinnipiac police districts. Nor have the mayoral or aldermanic appointees been designated.
Robert Caplan, chairman of the board, said Yale students could participate because Yale is in the Downtown district. The problem with the Downtown management team, he said, is its constituency. Because the team represents a largely commercial district, it often has trouble obtaining a quorum at its monthly meetings. A quorum is required to appoint a new representative.
Yale political science professor and board member David Cameron said getting a group of Yale students together would be an excellent way for the Downtown district to reach a quorum.
The East Shore management team has consistently refused to send an envoy to the Civilian Review Board.
“There is an understanding that they don’t want to participate,” Caplan said.
Along with membership issues, the board is also reviewing its policies on orientation and training. According to current board bylaws, new members must undergo training within three months of appointment. However, Caplan said the board might have to rework its policies to make them more flexible.
For example, Cameron is currently completing his training via a sort of “mentorship” program; board member Wayne Hobbs is reviewing with Cameron all the material presented last year to the board by the New Haven police.
Caplan added that no training is required for the Board of Police Commissioners, a group of people appointed by the mayor that also reviews civilian complaints. In addition, the Board of Police Commissioners has subpoena power, whereas the Civilian Review Board does not.
In addition to its monthly meeting in November, there will be a special meeting of the board in December at the Hall of Records on Orange Street. Members of the board are expected to invite executives from their community management team to that meeting.
The board will reconvene Nov. 14 at the Dixwell Police Substation.