Following an independent panel report on Yale Police Department policies — sparked by a Jan. 24 incident in which Tahj Blow ’16 was detained by a YPD officer holding a gun — uncertainty remains about how such panels are established and the role they play in University policy.
The panel charged with making recommendations to the University was chaired by psychology professor and Berkeley College Master Marvin Chun, who was joined by Charles Reynolds and Stephen Robinson. Reynolds and Robinson — neither of whom was previously affiliated with the University — are the former president of the New England Association of Chiefs of Police and a former U.S. district judge.
While students interviewed were supportive of the panel’s existence and mission, many were also critical that it did not incorporate a student perspective.
“The report that just came out from this panel offered pretty much the same conclusions that the police department’s did, but it offered them with more nuance, and it was sympathetic to conflicting perspectives, so it made recommendations outside of just ‘we acted within our protocol,’” Lucas Riccardi ’17 said.
Still, Riccardi said he doubts whether the opinions of one professor, a retired judge and a former police chief can speak for the entire Yale community. Rachel Paris ’17 echoed Riccardi, saying that it makes sense for students to be involved in the panels because students are affected by the decisions.
Moreover, Paris questioned how useful the panels are, given that the University is under no obligation to implement their suggestions.
Claire Williamson ’17 said she would encourage the University to provide options to discuss the report with the review panel, so that students can see changes begin shortly after recommendations have been made.
In February, University spokesman Tom Conroy compared this most recent panel to a campus climate committee that was created under former University President Richard Levin in 2011. The committee was formed in response to an investigation that claimed Yale had violated Title IX, and was tasked with offering recommendations to the University regarding its policies on sexual misconduct. The panel included prominent alumni such as senior fellow of the Yale Corporation Margaret Marshall LAW ’76 and University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews, who was vice president for campus life and dean of students at the University of Chicago at the time.
Several of the campus climate committee’s recommendations were supported by Levin as soon as their report was released to the Yale Community. The recommendations included expansion of the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education Center, as well as improved and expanded prevention and intervention training programs for students and administrators regarding sexual assault.
Conroy told the News that the University is taking this most recent independent review panel’s recommendations very seriously and has already begun a review of YPD policies and training programs.
Duane Bean ’17 said he supports the formation of these independent panels, and expects that the University typically takes its suggestions very seriously.
“I don’t see why forming these committees of third party experts could possibly be a bad thing,” Bean said. “Because in the end, the recommendations they give the University are just that: recommendations. Yale doesn’t have to take them. But given that these panels are made up of experts, I imagine that their recommendations are usually very useful, and that Yale will probably take them into account.”