Christina Lee, Photography Editor

More than 50 members and supporters of the Yale Police Benevolent Association, the police union,  rallied in front of the Schwarzman Center as scores of prospective students visiting campus for the annual Bulldog Days event watched on. 

Children wearing “Yale Police Union” t-shirts, along with other police union supporters, handed out pamphlets to prospective students on Tuesday afternoon, calling on admitted students and their families to support the union in their 14th month of contentious contract negotiations with the University. The pamphlets mark at least the sixth time the union has branded New Haven as dangerous during active contract negotiations. 

When asked if YPBA intentionally scheduled their protest for Bulldog Days, Union Secretary Adam Marong — who was leading the protestors’ chants — told the News that they wanted to maximize the number of people hearing about the Yale Police Department’s issues negotiating with the University. 

“When you think of the Ivy League, you automatically think of trees, suburbs, so we want [incoming students and parents] to know what the level of crime is at the University so they can do the proper things to feel safe,” Marong said. 

Chanting slogans such as “Down with Yale greed, up with campus safety,” union members at the rally advocated for a speedy and fair contract settlement with a substantive raise and improved pension benefits for officers killed or injured in the line of duty. Billboard trucks paid for by the YPBA, flashing messages like “Yale: $41 Billion Endowment But Offers 1.75% Wage Increase,” circled campus for the second day

Pamphlets provoke University condemnation

While the rally was in line with a long history of YPBA protests during visitor events, Tuesday’s pamphlet used comparatively tame language to the “Survival Guide” leaflets distributed to first-year students and their families on move-in day in August. The heavily criticized Grim Reaper-adorned leaflets from August claimed that “some Yalies do manage to survive New Haven.” Tuesday’s pamphlet, while still branding New Haven as a dangerous city, employed a more diplomatic tone. 

YPBA President Mike Hall addressed the leaflet to prospective students and their families, where he introduced the Yale Police Department, detailed the union’s contract priorities and underscored the YPBA’s commitment to protecting “your daughters and sons.” 

Not all of the union’s claims about crime in New Haven are true. Messaging emblazoned by YPBA claimed that over 2,574 gunshots were fired in New Haven in 2023 and that New Haven was the most dangerous city in the state in 2023. 

There have been 273 confirmed shots fired from Jan. 1 to Dec. 17, 2023, down from 294 in 2022, according to public crime records from the New Haven Police Department. In downtown New Haven, the NHPD recorded six confirmed shots in 2023. While New Haven had a higher property and overall crime rate in 2023, Hartford led the state in violent crime rate, according to publicly available crime data. 

Tuesday’s pamphlet attempted to appeal to the intellect of its audience, instead of the instinctual fear like other YPBA leaflets, Jorge Camacho LAW ’10, policing, law and policy director of the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School told the News.

Camacho said that the pamphlet’s evidence to support the YPBA’s characterization of New Haven as a dangerous city was not convincing. Downtown New Haven, which contains Yale’s main campus, has an “incredibly low” crime rate, Camacho said.

The pamphlet also cites rising school shootings nationally and a Fox News headline that describes campus homicides in universities in Georgia, Colorado and Kentucky. Camacho said that events happening throughout the country do not prove insecurity in New Haven. Given that crime rates on college campuses are already low, for Camacho, the YPBA’s statements amount to “fear-mongering.”

Interim Senior Director of Public Safety Duane Lovello wrote that the YPBA aimed to elicit fear among students and families by utilizing “misleading” and “inflammatory” language. 

“We unequivocally condemn the irresponsible and reckless actions of those who chose to spread this inaccurate information,” Lovello wrote in a statement to the News, referring to the pamphlets passed out by the union. “There is no indication of increased campus crime approaching the levels the YPBA suggests, and we are seeing a decrease, especially in violent crimes.”

Camacho also questioned the effectiveness of appealing to prospective students.

“It’s just curious to me that, for example, they’re not disseminating this to the incoming medical students, law students, the School of Management students,” Camacho said. “They’re not targeting the older, more sophisticated students. They’re really targeting fresh-faced freshmen who are arriving. This is probably their first time out in the real world without the support of their families. And they’re trying to take advantage of that in a way that just feels like a bad tactic.” 

Rally elicits mixed response from prospective students

Prospective students’ reactions to the rally were mixed. Many accepted a pamphlet or stopped to talk with union members. Tatyana Kaul, a prospective student, said she saw a person wearing a Yale Class of 2028 shirt ripping the YPBA pamphlet in half immediately upon receiving it. 

“It’s reasonable to ask for a fair wage seeing that Yale does have such a large endowment, but at the same time I also think it’s fair for the University to have gripes about them wanting to place a 60-day cap on police complaints,” Kaul said, referencing the YPBA’s proposal to place a statute of limitations on civilian complaints against police misconduct. 

The union received honks of support from passing Yale Shuttle, Yale Facilities and New Haven public transit vehicles. 

Vivian Quint, another prospective student, said that the union staging the protest during Bulldog Days was a logical way to disrupt Yale’s programming.

“[The YPBA protesting during Bulldog Days] makes total sense as we’re new students coming in,” Quint said. “We’re seeing the pretty picture of Yale, and it makes sense that these people want us to know that it’s not a pretty picture. It’s obviously pretty strategic to do it outside the Schwarzman Center, where our signature events are.”

Hall said that the union has other rallies planned for the rest of the academic year. 

The next bargaining session between the YPBA and the University will occur on Wednesday, April 17. 

Yurii Stasiuk 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.
Lily Belle Poling covers climate and the environment. Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, she is a first year in Branford College majoring in Global Affairs and English.