In their first month as the Yale Police Department’s inaugural community engagement officers, University officers Martha Ross and Martin Parker have gone apple picking with students from Benjamin Franklin College, dressed up as M&M’s for Halloween and created their own Instagram page: @officers_mnm.
The Community Engagement Team officer positions were created under the leadership of Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins in October. The team is comprised of two select officers — Ross and Parker — who engage with student groups, residential colleges, the University Athletic Department and New Haven communities.
The two members, according to the Yale website, aim to “understand and address campus needs and concerns.”
“We’re not trying to hide behind the walls of our police department,” Parker said. “We wanted to make sure that the people that we serve know that we’re willing to open up our doors.”
The Community Engagement Team officers are not actively on patrol. Instead, their primary responsibility is to identify ways to ameliorate the lives of Yale students, faculty members and individuals in the broader New Haven community.
According to Parker, the YPD created the position to strengthen the organization’s relationship with the local community by allowing residents to interact with police officers in an informal way.
Parker said that he and Ross will look to be both transparent and proactive in their duties. Ross said that it gives the community a chance to know them not just as officers, but “as Martha and Martin.”
Born and raised in New Haven, Parker attended the city’s Hyde Leadership Academy for high school and headed to the University of Richmond on a football scholarship. After an impressive high school and collegiate athletic career, Parker moved on to the National Football League, playing with both the New York Giants and the Seattle Seahawks. Following his professional stint, Parker worked as a line cook at Prime 16 in downtown New Haven.
Ross has worked at the University for four years and has previously served as a Yale Police Department patrol officer. Ross attended elementary and high school in the Bronx and is one of nine children.
In an interview with the News, Ross said that the new position “humanizes” the Police Department and shows that the Department aims to help the community.
“Me and Parker are very upfront, we have those personalities. We’re just going to tell you how it is,” said Ross.
The officers have partnered with different groups throughout campus, attended sporting events, delivered safety talks at New Haven elementary schools and hosted coffee chats at Donut Crazy over the past month. Parker said that they make sure to incorporate themselves in the student population and introduce themselves.
“We’re not showing up in police uniforms, we’re showing up in sweatpants and T-shirts,” Parker added.
On Oct. 25, Ross joined students from Benjamin Franklin College on their apple picking trip at High Hill Orchard. That same week, the two Community Engagement officers visited Lincoln Bassett School — Parker’s former elementary school — for a Halloween party, where they spoke about Halloween safety to students. On Oct. 31, Ross and Parker decorated the Yale Police Department building and handed out candy, along with Yale Police and Security officers.
Grace Kim ’21, who attended the apple picking event, said that being able to interact with the officers in a casual manner helped her put a familiar face to the Yale Police Department.
On Nov. 8, the two officers visited Augusta Lewis Troup School — a New Haven elementary school — for Community Safety Day. Ross and Parker met with children and let kids play with the police dog, sit in the police car and and test its alarm.
During his first month in his new job, Parker found that there is more of a “misunderstanding and a disconnect,” rather than a sense of distrust, between the police and the community. However, he added that nobody has specifically said that they don’t trust the Yale Police Department.
The Yale Police Department is located on 101 Ashmun St.
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