Lucas Holter, Senior Photographer

Yale’s police union is pushing for more detectives from the University, while at the same time attempting to curtail civilians’ ability to file complaints of police misconduct against the Yale Police Department. 

This is according to information provided by Mike Hall — the president of the Yale Police Benevolent Association, or YPBA — and Joe Sarno —Yale’s director of labor relations  — on the ongoing contract negotiations between the union and the University.

While Sarno said that the University prefers to not discuss details of the negotiations in the press, he told the News that one proposal from the YPBA contained language that would prohibit disciplinary action against officers if a civilian does not file and sign a complaint in writing within 60 days.

YPD’s current standards on civilian complaints have no such time limit, according to their guidelines.  

When asked to comment on this proposal, Hall said that “everything has a statute of limitations.” 

Hall also described the state of operations at the Yale Police Department’s Investigative Services Unit as “haphazard, inefficient, counterproductive,” as part of a campaign to get the YPD to hire more detectives. 

On Sept. 21, the police union wrote a letter to Ronnell Higgins, associate vice president for public safety and community engagement, claiming that all seven union detectives are concerned about what they said are low staffing levels. Current staffing levels, according to the union letter, are inadequate for detectives to handle the myriad, disjointed duties assigned to the unit, impeding the “timely and thorough” completion of criminal investigations. The letter called for the addition of two or three detectives to the unit and for the creation of a specialized squad for resource-heavy dignitary protection services. 

The YPBA has been in contract negotiations with the University since February. 

The YPBA pointed to the Harvard Police Department’s detectives unit as a model for the YPD throughout the letter. Despite having what the YPBA said are similar undergraduate populations at the two universities, the union noted that Harvard’s 13 detectives are almost double Yale’s seven. However, University officials and policing experts criticized the comparison in conversations with the News. 

“The YPBA strongly believes that Yale students are entitled to the same level and quality of police service as is enjoyed by Harvard students,” Hall wrote in the letter. “Therefore, we strongly urge you and the University to remedy the current staffing inadequacies in the [YPD] Investigative Services Unit by immediately adding additional Detectives.”

Although Yale’s undergraduate population of 6,590 students is relatively similar in size to Harvard’s 7,178 undergraduates, 18,088 graduate students study at Harvard compared to Yale’s 5,344 graduate and professional students

Jorge Camacho, policing, law and policy director of the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School, said that YPD staffing levels are not determined by population alone. Camacho said he thinks that campus density is also a factor contributing to Yale and Harvard’s detective gap as Harvard’s campus spreads into Boston. Higgins additionally expressed qualms with the comparison between Harvard and Yale’s police forces. 

“The comparison between the YPD and Harvard’s police department is inaccurate,” Higgins wrote. “Aligning with other departments based solely on their staffing levels is not an absolute determining factor because there are varying contributing factors.”

Although Higgins, in a statement to the News, did not express support for immediately hiring more detectives, he emphasized the YPD’s commitment to providing their Investigative Services Unit with the resources it needs to serve the community. Higgins noted that the YPD offers temporary detective assignments to provide support to full-time detectives.   

Higgins said that he recommended Hall meet with YPD Chief Anthony Campbell to begin the process of promoting a detective as soon as possible and conducting a staff and workload analysis. Campbell did not respond to a request for comment. 

In their day-to-day work, detectives are tasked with case investigations, follow-ups, dignitary security, background investigations and other secondary assignments. Unnamed detectives in the letter claimed that tasks such as dignitary protection detail that are assigned in the middle of an investigation stall progress, creating a “disjointed and hectic work environment.” The YPBA wrote in the letter that they hope a new Dignitary Protection, which they proposed to be called a Special Events Unit, similar to Harvard’s Special Events and Dignitary Protection Unit, might smooth workflow. 

“Everything revolves around manpower,” Hall said. 

Camacho said he did not necessarily agree with Hall. 

Camacho told the News he thinks that the rate of solved cases within the YPD, the correlation of solved cases’ rates with staffing levels and the division of labor among detectives should be considered before agreeing to change staff levels. 

“You’re going to really need to understand the full picture of how these detectives are spending their time before you can really make the determination of whether higher numbers would improve [conditions],” Camacho said. 

The YPBA and the University are in their seventh month of strained negotiations. Following a bargaining session on Sept. 20, Hall said that the University continued to demonstrate a lack of commitment to negotiations and is seemingly choosing to prioritize its first contract with Local 33, the graduate student union. According to Hall, the University has taken weeks to respond to proposals, which he attributed to a lack of “decision makers” present in the bargaining room. Hall did not produce specific examples of these delays when the News requested details. 

In a statement to the News, Sarno wrote that the suggestion that the University’s bargaining team does not include decision makers is “misplaced,” as evidenced by the parties’ multiple tentative agreements. 

Hall further criticized a Yale proposal that contained a 1.75 percent pay raise as being too low. Given high inflation levels since the union’s previous contract was negotiated in 2018, Hall said that Yale’s proposal was an “insane” wage offer. 

YPD patrol officer Chris Reddington told the News that he would like to see a raise that would at least match inflation levels. 

“It’s been a year and a half. We haven’t gotten a raise,” Reddington said. “In the economic times that we’re in, where inflation is through the roof and [we’re working] long hours and whatnot, I would say that [morale] is pretty low.”

Despite tensions between the union and the University, Hall characterized the negotiations on Sept. 20 as productive and added that proposal feedback flowed smoother than normal. With eight more negotiations sessions scheduled for October, Hall said that the YPBA remains optimistic that they will be able to settle a contract with the University. 

The next bargaining session between the union and the University will take place on Friday. 

Laura Ospina covers Yale-New Haven relations and the Latine community for the City desk. Originally from North Carolina's Research Triangle, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Political Science.