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Former New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09 — who was once a student at Yale College and Yale Divinity School — will be returning to campus in a very different capacity: as assistant chief of the Yale Police Department. Starting June 10, Campbell will oversee the Police Department’s patrol operations, community engagement and emergency services.

Campbell’s 21-year-long career at NHPD came to a close last February after a 20-month term as New Haven’s chief of police. On Feb. 1, Campbell announced his retirement from the force to work as a state inspector for the state’s attorney’s office in New Haven. He began working for the office on March 29. Less than two months later, on May 16, Campbell was offered the position at Yale. Campbell told the News in an interview Thursday that he accepted the offer the next day.

“[Yale Police Department] Chief [Ronnell] Higgins and I are good friends, and he has always known that with Yale being my alma mater for graduate and undergraduate that I’ve always had a great desire to return to the university to work in policing, long term,” Campbell said.

During his time as NHPD chief, Campbell promoted the practice of “community policing” — which encourages strengthening connections between cops and the people they serve — introduced officer body cameras and worked on reducing domestic violence by helping advocate for the New Haven Family Justice Center to service victims of domestic violence. The Center held its soft opening in November 2018.

According to Yale spokesperson Tom Conroy, Campbell is filling a vacancy in the Yale police force. In 2011, Higgins split the assistant chief responsibilities into two positions and promoted current assistant chief, Steven Woznyk and Michael Patten to fill the roles, according to Yale News. Campbell will succeed Patten, who retired in September 2016.

Conroy told the News that Woznyk will oversee the day-to-day activities of support services, including the Investigative Services Bureau, professional standards and training and the Communications/Dispatch Center, while Campbell will oversee patrol operations, emergency services and community engagement.

“I will be dealing with the specifics of student engagement and really trying to help Yale — which is already a great community policing organization — to rise to higher level of excellence of engaging the students, finding out what’s concerning them, incorporating ideas and suggestions,” Campbell said. “How can we better police our Yale community? And how can we better integrate not just the Yale community, but the larger community of New Haven into the most effective policing organization we can be?”

Campbell’s job offer from Yale comes exactly one month after an officer-involved shooting on April 16. Within the New Haven city limits, a Yale police officer and a Hamden police officer shot at two unarmed individuals, Stephanie Washington and Paul Witherspoon. The incident prompted massive community activism, drawing hundreds of New Haven residents and Yale students to protest Yale and its police department. While Campbell said he “doesn’t think that my being hired is a knee-jerk reaction to this incident,” he said that the community’s response to the shooting will help inform his new position.

“I think definitely the number of students who came out to interact and talk about their knowledge or their lack thereof of their knowledge of YPD — that to me says that we have a great opportunity to inform the students of what we do,” Campbell told the News. “I’m actually happy that so many students did come out, and are taking it seriously as we should, because this is their community and they want to make sure that not only is it the safest, but that it’s a healthy environment for everyone.”

When he first arrives on campus, Campbell said that he wants to meet with students and student leaders to feel “the pulse” of the university. He told the News that he wants to see far more “points of contact” between the students and officers on a consistent basis to gain a deeper understanding of the community and its concerns.

Campbell told the News that by “getting that pulse” only from sporadic interactions or contact stemming from a police call, the police department is “missing a lot of what is going on at the ground level.”

“Every time you connect with the community, the students in particular, and you share with them what you are doing and get from them ways in which you can do be doing what you are doing better — all you are doing is making deposits in the areas of trust, transparency and accountability,” Campbell said. “So that when major events do happen … you make a withdrawal from the bank of trust and say ‘Hey, I’m good for it. I’m going to correct these things. We are going to work together to see how we can ensure that things like this doesn’t happen. And if it does, we will work together to learn from it and move forward.’”

He said that one of the greatest things about Yale is how the institution tries to be a leader in “every possible field,” including being a premier leader in taking its organization “deeper into the 21st century.”

Whether it’s the police of the administration, Campbell said that the University looks for “what the people need from us.”

“[Yale is] an institution of learning — and part of that is self-reflection,” Campbell said. “I think we need to be more open and more transparent and up front with the work that it does. So much work is being done that people have no idea about.”

Conroy stressed to the News that community engagement is an “ongoing departmental priority,” citing how Higgins selected two YPD officers to engage with student groups and New Haven communities as “community engagement officers” in October 2018. He said that the position that Campbell is filling is “not a new position and community engagement is not a new function or priority.”  

Campbell first joined the NHPD in 1998, three years after graduating from Yale College in 1995. Around a decade later, Campbell pursued a degree from the Yale Divinity School, taking classes during the day and working NHPD shifts at night.

Serving first as a lieutenant at the New Haven Police Department for four months in 2013, he later was asked to serve as assistant chief. After 10 months as interim police chief, Campbell was sworn into his position as chief of police in June 2017.

Campbell, who began to work at the state’s attorney’s office in March before taking the YPD position in May, said that the inspector position was a brief but good experience. He told the News that New Haven State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin was “very gracious” when Campbell approached him about the job offer from Yale.

“When I approached [Griffin] to let him know that this opportunity had come up, he…said ‘You know, I think it’s a great community for you, for the community and for this office. You’ll still be local. You’ll still be a great resource for us,’” Campbell said. “I think it worked out pretty well.”

In an interview with the News in February following Campbell’s announcement to retire, Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins called Campbell a “trusted colleague and friend.”

“Campbell institutionalized his empathetic and thoughtful approach to management while staying true to his spirituality,” Higgins told the News in February. “He did this all while reducing crime and improving the quality of life in this city. I’m proud to call him ‘chief.’”

Higgins did not respond to the News’ request for comment.

Campbell said that as someone who is “very faith-oriented,” he feels that the opportunity to come back and serve Yale in this new capacity is a blessing. Citing Yale’s motto “Lux et Veritas,” Campbell said that he hopes to send a message to students that it is up to them to give back and serve the institution and community that provided them “the privilege and honor” to receive that education.

“I hope that what I am doing will encourage people to do public service, serve their community and serve other human beings with the knowledge and blessings they’ve received,” he said.

Campbell teaches a course at the Divinity School called “The Changing Face of Community-Police-Ministry Relations in the Twenty-First Century.” According to the description of the class on the Divinity School course list, the course looks at “faith’s role in defining and shaping exactly what ‘good community policing’ must look like in today’s world.”

Sammy Wesfall | sammy.westfall@yale.edu