A new city police program to bolster relations with the Yale community has been announced — but even police officials appear to be unsure whether the program is a response to the Oct. 2 Elevate raid.
The New Haven Police Department announced the Yale University Police Relations Academy on Tuesday in an effort to improve relations between the University and the department, said NHPD Spokesman Joseph Avery. The classes, which will be held at the Police Academy facility on Sherman Parkway, begin on April 12 and run for three consecutive Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Avery explicitly said that the course was not created because of the fallout from the Elevate raid. But NHPD Cpt. Joann Peterson, who will be leading the classes, said the course is a continuation of the department’s post-Elevate efforts to improve its relations with the Yale community.
“This all got started as a result of the Elevate incident, and the conversations with students that followed,” Peterson said. “[At those conversations] we let them see us as people, and we saw them as people so we wanted to continue that with the academy.”
In the immediate aftermath of Elevate, Peterson said she met several times with different groups of concerned Yale students such as members of the Morse and Stiles college councils, but those forums deteriorated over time. The Academy, Peterson said, represents an effort to solidify the recovery of the NHPD-Yale relationship before students leave for summer vacation. But Avery said the new Yale program has a broader focus. The program is simply part of NHPD Chief Frank Limon’s efforts to build relationships with the larger community, he said. The department held a program for New Haven clergy members last week, Avery said, so it was part of the chief’s plan to extend this course to the Yale community because he “wants everybody to be on the same page.”
The clergy academy was only one day, Peterson said, and its content was much less in depth than the planned Yale academy. Both are derived from the eight to 10 week long citizen’s academy that the department hosts annually.
According to a schedule for the academy, the three classes will include a discussions on the department’s Internal Affairs process led by IA head Cpt. Denise Blanchard, and Yale Police-NHPD relations led by Peterson. The final full day of the academy will be dedicated entirely to studying police use of force. This discussion will include role-playing scenarios where students and administrators can learn about the stresses of policing and begin to understand when the use of force may be needed, Peterson said.
One of the complaints against the NHPD following the raid on Elevate was for the use of excessive force when at least one officer used a Taser against Jordan Jefferson ’13 and several more jumped on him. Because of confusion and conflicting accounts over incidents such as this, the Yale-NHPD relationship could stand to see an increase in mutual respect brought on by the academy program, Peterson said.
“We have to build trust in our relationships, and the program is a great way to do that,” she said.
Given the short notice and timing of the academy, only one of 10 students interviewed said they will consider attending the classes, though two others said that they would have considered if there was more advance notice.
Peterson said she expected that there would be scheduling problems because the academy was announced only a week before it begins, but she said there will be a second set of classes in the fall.
The NHPD released the final Internal Affairs Investigation for the Elevate raid on March 3. The 49-page document contained 25 student complaints and 22 officer statements. In the report, nearly all of the complaints alleged that the NHPD officers swore at the students and threatened them. Every officer in the document denied this charge, although several alleged that some students used combative language.
In addition to discussions which could relate to the Elevate incident, the academy program will also include a session on how police deal with domestic violence, sexual assault, bias and hate crimes.