The report released Tuesday clearing a Yale Police Department officer of wrongdoing in the Jan. 24 detention of Tahj Blow ’16 appears to have generated a tepid response on campus.
Of students interviewed Wednesday, only two of 21 had read the report in its entirety. Many of those interviewed blamed midterm exams for not making it through the report.
Christopher Rim ’17 said he has plans to read the report eventually, but did not have time to examine it carefully after it was sent to the Yale community.
“I’m interested in seeing the findings, since the original incident was such a point of controversy,” Rim said. “But I haven’t had time to look at it this week because of midterms, and other students probably feel the same way.”
Jordan Coley ’17, a member of the Yale Black Men’s Union, said that although he had not read the internal investigation report, he thought it was important that the most recent campus-wide email acknowledged that the event had “intersect[ed] with current national conversations about race, prejudice and policing.”
He said the first email the campus community received when the incident occurred shied away from this.
“We are at Yale, but Yale is part of a greater American society that is grappling with these issues, and we cannot assume that our position as a top-tier private university leaves us exempt from these problems,” Coley said.
The mild campus reaction stands in contrast to the response that immediately followed the Jan. 24 incident. That night, Blow was stopped by a police officer after the YPD received reports that an intruder had entered Trumbull College.
However, even though few students interviewed said they had read the report, University spokesman Tom Conroy said on Tuesday that it was necessary for the full report to be released publicly. He said sharing the findings with the community means that the fullest possible information is in the public’s domain and, therefore, people can make their own judgments based on all the facts available.
The report concluded that the officer who had approached Blow complied with department policy. He did not hold the gun at the student, the report said, contrary to what early rumors suggested, but instead had held his firearm in the “low ready” position, with his finger off the trigger.
The campus-wide email — sent by University President Peter Salovey, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway and YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins — told students they can expect to engage in open dialogue with the administration about issues of race, prejudice and policing. Although Martha Highsmith, senior advisor to the president and provost, told the News Tuesday that students will hear after spring break about how these conversations will proceed, many students interviewed already expressed interest in finding out what the format of the conversations would be.
Dara Huggins ’17, a member of the Yale Black Women’s Coalition, said groups within the Afro-American Cultural Center have already been facilitating discussions like these, but added that she is interested in how the administration will tackle the conversations.
“I would hope that these conversations, at the very minimum, generate respect for the viewpoints of others and compassion for those who are directly or indirectly affected by the salience of implicit bias in our society,” she said. “I don’t expect everyone to understand, but I expect everyone to listen.”
Groups beyond the African-American community need to be discussing these issues as well, Huggins added.
Israel Tovar ’17, a peer liason at La Casa Cultural Center, said he does not believe there has been much of a conversation about the specific investigation report among La Casa members.
But members of the Native American Cultural Center said discussions both about the report and broader issues such as racial profiling are very common at the NACC.
Sebastian Medina-Tayac ’16, a former staff reporter for the News who read the investigative report in its entirety, said he was dissatisfied by the document.
“I was really displeased with how obvious the attempts were to try and mitigate and cover up what actually happened,” Medina-Tayac said. “Just because his finger wasn’t on the trigger doesn’t mean he wasn’t pointing his weapon at an innocent student. Obviously they’re not going to release a police report that would incriminate an officer. But this is something that affects all students of color on campus.”
He added that many students, particularly NACC members, have had “bad encounters” with the YPD and have experienced feeling racially targeted by police officers. They thus believe the Blow incident is not an isolated one.
David Rico ’16, also a member of the NACC, said it is important for cultural organizations on campus to make note of these issues and discuss them thoroughly.
“We find it important to show solidarity, and to think about these situations and talk about them, because we know people who have been wrongfully targeted and put in prison,” Rico said.