Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer

Accompanied by the sounds of honks and whistles, more than 50 Yale police union members and supporters chanted “Down with Yale greed, up with campus safety” in front of the Schwarzman Center on Friday afternoon. 

The Yale Police Benevolent Association, which is in its eighth month of sluggish contract negotiations with the University, protested what they described as a lackluster 1.75 percent wage increase proposal from Yale. The members discussed high recent inflation rates, their high healthcare fees compared to other University union members and Yale’s alleged unwillingness to negotiate fairly with the union.

“It’s really unfair what Yale’s offering us to take care of our families when they are making record profits,” Shawn Browning, the vice president of the union, said. “All I want to do is take care of my family without worrying.”

Browning and other union members denounced Yale’s proposed wage increases and referred to recent highs in the University’s capital; Yale’s endowment peaked at $42.3 billion in 2021 and stood at $41.4 billion last year. University representatives have previously declined to comment on specific contract proposals.

University spokesperson Karen Peart wrote in a statement to the News that the University supports the right of union members to rally peacefully. She reiterated the Yales’s commitment to negotiating a fair contract with the union as soon as possible. 

Friday’s rally, which took place during Family Weekend, adds to a long history of the Yale Police Benevolent Association protesting during visitor events, such as weekends for prospective students or families. 

Electronic billboard trucks — emblazoned with messages such as “New Haven most dangerous city in CT” and “Parents, support your children, support the Yale Police” — parked near the Old Campus gates on Elm Street this past Friday. The language on the trucks recalled language that appeared in the widely criticized pamphlets the Yale Police Benevolent Association handed out to arriving families during first year move-in day this August. 

The union also faced criticism over the weekend from policing experts after the News reported Friday on a Yale Police Benevolent Association contract proposal that attempted to impose a statute of limitations on civilian complaints of police misconduct. The “unacceptable” proposal would prohibit disciplinary action against officers if a civilian does not file and sign a complaint in writing within 60 days, according to Joe Sarno, Yale’s director of labor relations. There is no current time limit on complaints. 

For Craig Birckhead-Morton ’24, a member of the Yale Police Department Advisory Board, limiting police accountability exacerbates power imbalances between the New Haven residents and the University. 

Without adequate accountability measures, the YPD can operate as an “armed wing of a private corporation” that acts as it wants, Birckhead-Morton said. He also told the News that divisive policies like the proposed limit obstruct the shared goal of making New Haven safer. 

“My first reaction is just [that the proposed statute of limitations] does nothing to make students or faculty or the other workers at this university safer,” Birckhead-Morton said. 

Jorge Camacho LAW ’10, policing, law and policy director of the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School, in a statement to the News, wrote that he was not aware of any other departments with a similar time requirement for civilian complaints. Camacho added that although the short statute of limitations would not impact prosecutors’ ability to file criminal charges against officers, it would impede internal investigations into serious allegations. 

Camacho wrote that fear of reprisal, lack of knowledge about the complaint process and hospitalization can all impact filing times. 

“If YPD adopts this policy, it would mark a substantial departure from common practice,” Camacho wrote. “I’m unsure what incentive the YPD would have to do so, aside from artificially reducing the number of complaints the department receives. Without an accurate tally of documented complaints against officers, the department would undermine its own ability to oversee itself.”

Yale Police Benevolent Association Secretary Adam Marong said that the union hoped to reduce an “infinite” time window that allows civilians to come forward decades after an incident. 

The president of the Yale Police Benevolent Association, Mike Hall, emphasized that technologies such as body and dash cameras, as well as overall officer supervision, promote accountability within the YPD. Hall also said that civilian complaints against the YPD are low, characterizing one complaint as a “barrage” and two as a “deluge.”

“We have guys here that have been on the job for 30, 40 years,” Hall said. “Do you honestly think that it would be fair to them to have a complaint hanging over your head? … [Sarno] is cherry-picking that one proposal, and we’re open to a counteroffer.”

In between leading chants at the rally, Marong criticized the department’s staffing levels and used a bullhorn to address visiting parents, saying that staffing levels affects “your children’s safety.” The Yale Police Benevolent Association sent a letter to Ronnell Higgins, associate vice president for public safety and community engagement, last month advocating for the hiring of more detectives. 

Union leadership also called on Yale to include more “decision makers” in bargaining sessions. Sarno has previously disputed the allegation that Yale’s bargaining team does not include decision makers, citing several tentative agreements between the University and the union. 

Glenn Yittig, a patrol officer, said that union members just want to be “treated fairly.” He emphasized the role that he believes the YPD plays in keeping the campus safe on a day-to-day basis. 

“Without us, there would be no alternative,” said Yittig. “The Yale community can’t expect the New Haven [Police Department] to respond to calls because they’re understaffed, and they don’t know this place like we do.”

Union members and supporters left the rally with a promise: “We’ll be back!” Hall said that although the union is hopeful that negotiations will pick up soon, they won’t hesitate to “ratchet up” organizing strategies, such as filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB. In 2011, the union filed a charge with the NLRB alleging that Yale was not negotiating in good faith.

The Yale Police Benevolent Association and the University have eight scheduled bargaining sessions in October. 

Kaitlyn Pohly contributed reporting.

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.