The Yale Police Department is rebranding itself based on changes recommended by a team of four Yale School of Management students.
Seeking to improve students’ perceptions of campus safety, the University courted talent at the School of Management instead of employing professional consultants last spring, said University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith, who oversees Yale security. One month into the implementation of the students’ recommendations, the changes have been received with tentative approval by students, though administrators say they are pleased with the results.
“The School of Management was a good option for two reasons,” Highsmith said of the decision to recruit the students. “One, they’re on campus and available to us, but the other reason is that they’re students and really understand how best to get an effective message to students.”
The University has already implemented a number of the students’ recommendations: the look of University Police Chief James Perrotti’s e-mails has been changed; student-security liaisons for the graduate and professional schools are being recruited; and there is now a new process to handle community feedback via the newly created e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highsmith said the new ways of using e-mail have been particularly helpful in quelling security-related rumors. But for students, the most striking change is the new format of Perrotti’s alerts, which now are headed by a “Yale Police” banner that features two photographs — an image of a policeman speaking to four students and a portrait of Perrotti himself.
“People used to joke about this phantom person, this phantom chief,” Perrotti said, chuckling. “‘Who is this chief? Is he real, what’s the story with that?’ … [Now] they can see there’s an actual person behind the alerts.”
Last spring University officials pitched the project to the SOM’s Management Clinic course, a seminar that engages students in real-world consulting projects. Four students undertook the project and spent the semester assessing how the Yale Police Department communicates with the Yale community. At the course’s conclusion, they made recommendations on how to make students feel better informed about campus safety issues.
Making the recommendations were Weldon Johnson ’96 SOM ’11, Brian Murray SOM ’10, Eric Waters SOM ’09 and Pallavi Reddy, an exchange student to SOM from the London School of Economics.
In e-mails, Murray and Johnson said their experiences as members of the Yale community attracted them to the project.
“With a wife and young child, I have a strong personal interest in safety on campus and in New Haven,” Murray said. He explained that within the few months he had been at SOM, he had observed students reacting with “paranoia” to reports of petty crime in New Haven.
Johnson said he was disappointed when a murder near his Church Street residence went unacknowledged by an alert from Perrotti.
“I figured [Perrotti’s] e-mails were only sent out if the crime was on-campus or if it involved a Yale student,” Johnson said. “The whole situation made me angry, and I figured Yale cared more about PR than safety.”
But Johnson said he felt better after learning from Highsmith and other University officials that alerts are only sent when an incident is perceived to pose an ongoing threat to students.
Undergraduates interviewed Thursday said they felt well informed by the YPD and had noticed an improvement in the department’s communications.
Deanna Arrieta ’10 said that this fall the alerts seem more detailed than they used to be and that “they look friendlier.”
“Now there are different pictures and icons, as opposed to that sort of inter-office e-mail format,” Arrieta said.
On the tech-focused nature of the changes, Perrotti said, “Let’s face it, everything today is either e-mail or texting or Facebook and Twitter.”
Asked whether Yale Security might get its own Twitter, he said, “Who knows? There are law enforcement agencies across the country taking advantage of those things. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?”