Both the New Haven and Yale police departments have launched their fall community outreach programs, with the goals of engaging, educating and recruiting local citizens.
Each department has its own academy, allowing for unique opportunities to deeply engage with Elm City residents in the spirit of the community policing model that both the NHPD and YPD employ. Though only the NHPD uses its academy to find new recruits, both leverage their programs to make their practices transparent, particularly given the increased scrutiny on police conduct nationwide in the wake of the events in Ferguson, MO.
“I think Connecticut’s, in my opinion, are probably some of the best-trained police departments in the country,” NHPD Assistant Chief Al Vazquez said. “We train our people in proper use of force. We train them in constitutional law. We train them to respect the rights of the community citizens that they police.”
As a result, he added, there has not been much of a need to alter or augment specific parts of the department’s curriculum in light of cases like the Ferguson, Mo. incident or the Nov. 2013 death of Samuel See, the late Yale assistant professor that sparked public demands for police accountability.
The NHPD fall program curriculum consists of around 800 hours of training at its facility at 710 Sherman Pkwy. Of those hours, which take place over a 6-month period, most are spent in a classroom, rather than a field setting.
From the academy, new officers are released into live situations under the guidance of veteran members of the department to gain hard experience. The hope is that, by this point, only the most competent trainees remain, given the rigor and selectiveness of the recruiting and training processes.
“Standards are standards and everybody has to be able to perform,” Sergeant Robert Maturo, who runs the academy’s training program, said. “There is no leniency. That’s for the safety of the community.”
He added that these criteria supersede even directed efforts to recruit locally and bolster fair demographic representation within the departments, another social issue that has drawn significant attention from New Haven residents.
Still, the NHPD has focused its recruiting efforts on community events to encourage locals from communities like downtown New Haven and Newhallville to consider careers in law enforcement. Other efforts include career fairs at local colleges like Gateway Community College, Southern Connecticut State University, Quinnipiac University and Albertus Magnus College.
NHPD Sergeant Mary Helland, the lead coordinator of recruiting, said that the department will also leverage the University connections of Chief Dean Esserman and Lieutenant Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09 to attract Yale students.
“It’s something we’ve looked at — we will be out there,” she said about efforts to recruit on campus. “I think it’s a great job, even for an Ivy League student. It’s not a job that would be beneath people who go to Yale.”
Students looking to engage with local authorities in a more open setting, however, will be able to participate in the YPD’s Citizen Police Academy this fall. The academy offers classes with the goal of keeping the YPD’s practices transparent and fostering a relationship of trust between the department and Elm City residents, both from Yale and otherwise.
Lieutenant Von Narcisse, who directs the academy, said the value of running the program, which runs twice a year, changes according to the advice of prior students and thereby reflects modern preferences.
“Closing gaps and maintaining transparency is a part of a model you speak of and we work hard at it,” he said. “By the time our students leave, they have a much clearer perspective as to what we are all about.”
The YPD Citizen’s Academy classes will run on Tuesdays from Oct. 7 through Nov. 11.