In a statement Friday morning, Yale announced it would not contest the Freedom of Information Commission’s February ruling that mandated the Yale Police Department to disclose personnel files for two of its officers.
Almost two months ago, the commission ruled that the YPD, though it is a privately funded law-enforcement agency, is subject to the same disclosure rules as public agencies like the New Haven Police Department. Although University officials initially held their ground after the ruling, asserting that the YPD was not “functionally equivalent” to a public police department, that stance has now reversed entirely.
“The University will abide by the FOI Commission’s decision requiring disclosure of certain documents related to Yale Police Department officers,” this morning’s release states. “[W]e are doing so because Yale recognizes the unique and public law enforcement role that its officers play in the City of New Haven. Yale takes extremely seriously its relationship to the public in performing its police work in the City. “
Public Defender Janet Perrotti — a first cousin of YPD Chief James Perrotti — initially filed a FOIA request for two officers’ personnel files when she suspected misconduct during the May 2007 arrest of one her clients.
The client, a 16-year-old black teenager, was riding his bike on the sidewalk when the two officers stopped him and charged him with breach of peace. After realizing the arrest report and her client’s account of the incident did not match up, Janet Perrotti wrote James Perrotti a letter on June 25 of last year asking to see files on the two officers’ police histories.
On July 13, James Perrotti wrote his cousin back. The chief denied Janet Perrotti’s request request to see Officer Brian Donnelly’s and Officer Alexis Rivera’s personnel files.
“Yale University and its police department are private entities and are not subject to the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act,” James Perrotti wrote in the letter, according to the FOIC’s hearing report.
But in February, the FOIC unanimously disagreed. The commission ruled that the YPD met all four requirements that would classify it as functionally equivalent to a public agency and, therefore, subject to FOIA requests.
Under FOI guidelines, an entity is public if it performs a governmental function, was created by government, is regulated by that government and receives government funding.
Colleen Murphy, executive director and general counsel for the FOIC, told the News in February that she thought the commission had reached the right decision.
“It was a very compelling, very interesting case,” Murphy, who also served as the case’s hearing officer, said.
Days after the ruling was handed down, University spokesman Tom Conroy said the University had not ruled out an appeal.
“The University believes that the facts it presented in its brief to the commission warranted a finding that Yale is not subject to the state FOIA,” Conroy said.
Yale “has not yet decided how to proceed in the wake of the decision by the Freedom of Information Commission,” he added.
Yale Daily News Editor in Chief Andrew Mangino found Yale’s Friday morning statement comforting.
“What is encouraging about this morning’s news is that the University did not decide to abide by the commission’s decision because it could not win, but because officials realized that it should not win” he said.
Janet Perrotti did not return a request for comment left for her Friday morning