Just over two months after Tahj Blow ’16 was briefly detained by a Yale police officer holding a gun on Cross Campus, the ad hoc panel charged with providing recommendations on University and Yale Police Department policies has issued its report.
In addition to finding that the YPD’s internal investigation into the incident — which cleared the officer involved of wrongdoing — was comprehensive and that the ensuing report was factual, the panel’s report issued three recommendations.
Perhaps most significantly, the report recommended that the YPD institute the use of body cameras for all officers. Furthermore, it recommended that the YPD include “intentionally pointing a weapon at or in the direction of a person” in the definition of “use of force,” and that the YPD further specify the position of “low ready,” the position in which the officer involved held his weapon. The report recommends that, for future reference, the YPD define low ready more specifically, so that it is clear that the weapon held is “at a 45 degree angle or less and not at a person with the officer’s finger outside of the trigger well.”
Lastly, the panel recommended that Yale “emphasize its continued commitment to providing a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for its students, faculty, staff and visitors.”
The report was released in a University-wide email sent by University President Peter Salovey, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway and YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins.
Blow was stopped on Jan. 24 after the YPD received reports that an intruder, described as a tall African-American male wearing a read and white hat and black coat, had entered Trumbull College. The report followed a series of thefts in the college.
The panel consisted of Master of Berkeley College and psychology professor Marvin Chun, former President of the New England Association of Chiefs of Police Charles Reynolds and former U.S. District Judge Stephen Robinson.
The three panel members worked with Deputy Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Janet Lindner, Yale’s Acting General Counsel Cynthia Carr and Higgins to draft the report. The panel was convened on Feb. 10, 2015, almost a month before the YPD report was released to the Yale community on March 4.
The suggestion that the YPD institute body cameras for all officers follows a national conversation about the devices, sparked in large part by instances of alleged police brutality in New York, Missouri and elsewhere. After the report’s release on Monday, students interviewed expressed support for the proposed measure.
“I would say that it seems like a good idea for the police to have more accountability,” Irene Connelly ’17 said. “And body cameras could accomplish that.”
YPD currently owns 10 body cameras, according to Deputy Press Secretary Karen Peart who told the News in February that the department began piloting its body camera program in fall 2013. However, only one police supervisor is required to wear a camera during each shift. Moreover, rules about when the camera needs to be switched on are unclear.
The broader fourth recommendation — that the University continue to provide a safe and welcoming environment — was accompanied by a range of suggestions on how it can be accomplished. Among the ideas were University-sponsored opportunities for dialogue about race and policing, and a direct channel through which concerned individuals can communicate with senior administrators and Higgins.
University spokesman Tom Conroy said the University is seriously considering these recommendations outlined in the report.
“The University is taking the panel’s recommendations seriously and has begun a review of the policies and training programs, and is already reaching out to begin the important dialogue with the community,” Conroy said.
The email from Salovey, Holloway and Higgins noted that there will be a teach-in this evening entitled “Ferguson and Beyond.” The event — led by Crystal Feimster, a professor in the African-American Studies Department — is designed to be, according to its Facebook page, an “open discussion about race, policing and social justice.”
But Julia Henry ’17, a staff photographer for the News, said that there are upsides to the delay; namely it has kept the momentum for a discussion on race going, reminding students that problems of prejudice are still very prevalent in our society.
“Even at places as open as Yale, I think it’s hard to talk about issues of race,” Henry said. “And I think events like this are really important for facilitating discussion.”
The teach-in will take place tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Sudler Hall.