An internal investigation conducted by the Yale Police Department has found that the actions of an officer who stopped a Yale College student on campus were in compliance with department policy.
In stopping and briefly detaining the student while responding to a possible burglary in progress, the uniformed officer unholstered his weapon. An investigation of the incident followed a complaint made to Yale Police by the student, who questioned whether the Yale police officer was justified in drawing his firearm.
The Yale Police Department based its findings from the investigation on a statement provided by the student, interviews with the police officer involved in the incident and other Yale police officers on duty at the time, 911 calls by students that led to the stop, security camera video and audio police recordings of the incident, and review of Yale Police policies and applicable statutes and legal decisions.
Among its findings, the investigation concluded that the officer drew his firearm in the “low ready” position, with his finger off the trigger at all times, and put his weapon back in its holster in a matter of seconds. The officer did not violate any Yale Police regulations regarding patrol procedures or the use of force, the report stated.
The Yale Police report, redacted to protect the privacy of the individuals involved, was shared with the Yale community in a message from President Peter Salovey, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, and Yale Chief of Police Ronnell Higgins. The officials had said at the time of the incident that a thorough review would be conducted and that the findings would be made public.
“We believe that the Yale Police Department undertook a comprehensive investigation of our officer’s interaction with our student,” the three officials said in a statement. They commended the Yale Police for its rapid response to calls for assistance on the evening in question, and acknowledged that the student “endured a deeply troubling experience.”
In the campus-wide message, the officials announced that the university had formed an independent panel to work with Higgins and other university officials to review the investigation’s findings and make any recommendations warranted by its review. Professor Marvin Chun, master of Berkeley College, former federal judge Stephen C. Robinson, and former police chief Charles Reynolds, a law enforcement consultant, were asked to serve on the panel. The panel will:
- Review the Yale Police investigatory process and whether the findings were factually based and consistent with the department’s standards;
- Provide any recommendations Yale Police could consider regarding policies, procedures and training; and
- Share actions that might be taken to support the goal of community policing and constructive interactions between police and students.
The independent panel’s report, including any recommendations for changes in Yale Police policies or procedures resulting from the panel’s work, will be made public, Yale officials said.
The description of the incident in the Yale Police investigation report states that the officer involved in the stop of the student was the first officer to respond to an emergency dispatch relaying several students’ reports to police of an intruder walking in and out of rooms in Trumbull College, one of 12 undergraduate residential colleges on campus. These reports followed recent burglaries in student residences that were under investigation by Yale Police.
The intruder was described by students as an “extraordinarily tall black male” wearing a “black coat, red and white beanie cap” and with “orange details” on his shoes. The officer subsequently saw the student, who was leaving the Yale library, and reported that he had spotted someone matching the description walking on Yale’s Cross Campus in the direction of the Noah Porter Gate on Elm Street. The officer called out to the student to stop, ordered him to lie down, ascertained that he was a Yale student, and relayed that information by radio to the Yale Police dispatcher.
A Yale Police timeline of the event, of approximately six minutes in length and included in the internal affairs report, begins with calls from Yale students to Yale Police dispatch, includes the officer receiving and responding to the emergency dispatch, and ends with another officer reporting the arrest of a suspect approximately 200 feet from the Cross Campus location where the student was detained. The suspect was charged with burglary and other crimes.
The investigation report includes full accounts of the incident by both the officer and the student involved. Yale Police contacted the student after the incident to explain the circumstances that led to his detention, and to learn his account of the events.
The investigation did identify three policy and training deficiencies of the Yale Police Department: the definitions of “low ready” positioning of a firearm and “pointing a firearm,” and the policy regarding the activation of a body video camera.