Nearly five months after New Haven police raided the Morse-Stiles Screw at Elevate Lounge on Crown Street, relations between Yale students and the New Haven Police Department have not seen the concrete improvements administrators had originally hoped for.
Just after the raid, which saw New Haven police arrest five students and use a Taser on one, outrage over allegations of brutality swept across campus and students demanded action. In the weeks that followed, University officials and student leaders worked with the NHPD to develop outlets — including new organizations and a meet-and-green session — through which students could express their frustration with police actions. But since then, with the continued delays of an official Internal Affairs report detailing the events of the Oct. 2 raid, student leaders said student outrage connected with the incident seems to have disappeared.
“It’s too bad because I think that the Elevate incident was and is an opportunity for students … and other residents across the city to really come together,” said James Cersonky ’11, a student organizer. “Right now, the student involvement is pretty tepid.”
Days after the raid saw college masters and deans encourage students to file official complaints. The night after the raid, Yale College Dean Mary Miller sent an e-mail assuring students that the administration took their complaints seriously.
“We know that many students have experienced a very disturbing event,” Miller wrote in the e-mail. “We have heard their voices, and we are committed to pursuing an appropriate resolution of the issues.”
So far, the Yale College Council has organized only one meeting with the NHPD since the raid — a meet-and-greet session in November, at which roughly 40 students and a handful of cops shared pizza and ideas for improving their relationship, said YCC President Jeff Gordon ’12.
“I wish it didn’t take an incident like Elevate to bring us all together,” Lt. Rebecca Sweeney, the NHPD’s downtown district manager, who has been handling much of the police response to Elevate, said after the November event. “But it happened, so we’re just going to move on.”
Gordon said that the YCC and police have not been in regular contact since the event, however, and that students seem to be losing interest in police issues.
“There’s always more that could be done to strengthen a relationship, but it’s certainly not the first thing on students’ minds right now,” Gordon said.
In the past week, efforts to rejuvenate relations between the two groups resurfaced when Sweeney sent Gordon an e-mail about another event, he said.
Sweeney did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The NHPD has also been mulling the possibility of holding another event with students in recent weeks, said NHPD officer and “Operation Nightlife” coordinator David Hartman, adding that he is unsure if students are still interested in such events.
Gordon has been brainstorming ideas for more events with Sweeney and Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins, but said they have had difficulty coming up with proposals that they think would actually engage students. Though Gordon said he was pleased with turnout at the pizza party, he does not think it could draw the same crowd twice.
Campus organizers have found similar problems with fading motivation. Though many students participated in movements against police violence following the Elevate raid, and roughly a dozen marched from City Hall to the police headquarters on Union Ave. in October to protest alleged police brutality, that number has waned significantly, Cersonsky said. Though there is a core group of students that has stayed active in police reform, Cersonsky said he is the only undergraduate consistently involved with New Haven Against Police Brutality, a group formed after the raid.
“It’s interesting that as a campus we’ve reached such swift closure on an issue that was on so many people’s radars,” he added.
THE LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
Although much of the campus has moved on, some students are still feeling the effects of the Oct. 2 raid as the court proceedings continue to be postponed. But one student expressed more pity than anger.
“The fact that the court feels a need to look out for the police is ridiculous,” said Zachary Fuhrer ’11, one of five students arrested that night. “I’m not even upset, I’m just embarrassed [for the police].”
(Fuhrer is a former Arts & Living editor for the News.)
The court date for four of the students arrested after the raid was postponed for the ninth time on Wednesday. Although the pre-trial motions were not on the record, Fuhrer told the News that the case was postponed so David Strollo, the state prosecutor in charge of the case, could read the Internal Affairs report. Fuhrer added that Strollo originally said that he would be able to read this document in December.
“All of these students are, in my view, 100 percent innocent,” said Hugh Keefe, the lawyer representing the students. “The case should be dismissed, and hopefully will be soon.”
NHPD Captain of Internal Affairs Denise Blanchard said that the case is still an open investigation, but that she is “hoping to bring it to a closure very soon.”