WhY ABolish YPD?
Yale University claims to have a private police force to protect its students and community. Yet it also has Yale Security patrolling campus, offering escorts, and overseeing the blue phones and card reader systems. So why does the YPD exist? From its inception, the Yale Police Department has been charged with monitoring public space for the private interest of “secur[ing] Yale’s properties, research, and assets.” It is a private militia protecting Yale’s power, with full police authority over New Haven’s citizens despite not having any oversight from community members. The Memorandum of Understanding between YPD and New Haven gives YPD jurisdiction over all of New Haven, the same as the New Haven Police Department, but does not make YPD at all accountable to the New Haven community. The danger of this scenario is not just theoretical. In the past five years alone, the Yale Police Department (YPD) has had numerous high profile racial incidents with no change to policy, including the shooting of two Black unarmed citizens, Stephanie Washington and Paul Witherspoon (for more incidents and information, click here). YPD is redundant and dangerous. It is shameful that Yale funds the doubling of armed officers in New Haven to bring violence and trauma to their students and community.
Due to the aforementioned reasons, Black Students for Disarmament at Yale (BSDY) presents and defends the following demands:
Immediately Disarm the Yale Police Department;
Implement a robust Differential Response System devoid of police officers by the end of the 2020-2021 Academic School Year;
Begin defunding the Yale Police Department immediately so that it can be dismantled by 2023
Reinvest these funds to support New Haven organizations that protect, serve and uplift Black and Brown communities
Beyond YPD we have to rethink policing as the only form of public safety. Instead of spending over $10 million on its own police force, Yale should invest its funds in New Haven services such as education, housing and healthcare that actually support community members in need. Additionally, Yale should use trained professionals, such as mental health counselors, sexual assault responders, deescalation officers, and addiction services, that have the necessary tools to address the problems students face.
For more information on what this would look like and details on the history of the YPD, check out our resources page and the FAQ below.
How will I be safe on campus without the YPD?
It is very important to us that everyone in the Yale community and beyond is able to have their security concerns addressed effectively, but YPD, a private police force, does not do that. First, YPD has a history of bringing violence to community members as well as students, click here to see a list of these incidents. Now let’s look at what crime YPD is actually handling. From 2014-2019, of all the crimes YPD responded to, 83.5% were larceny (property crimes), 13.5% were burglary, 1% were robbery, 1% were motor vehicle theft, less than 1% were sexual assault, less than 1% were aggravated assault, and there was a single case of arson. This means almost 99% of the crimes YPD responded to were some kind of theft. These cases do not require an armed response, and could be handled by Yale Security or however the New Haven Police Department is restructured by the community. There is also no evidence that YPD is in any way preventing this crime. The 1% of crimes, sexual assault and aggravated assault, are only responded to by police officers after the fact, and police have historically have been dismissive of survivors. An armed police officer responding to someone who has recently experienced trauma, especially sexual trauma, is unnecessary and can be even more traumatic for the survivor. There are actual professionals trained to handle and support sexual assault survivors, and there is no reason why a private police force that works for the university should be handling these incidents instead. Survivors themselves have made this choice. Yale’s 2019 report on sexual misconduct shows that an overwhelming amount of sexual assault cases were brought to and handled by the Title IX office instead of YPD. We are demanding that Yale put the YPD budget into resources like these that actually keep people safe and are run by people with training specific to these issues instead of funding a private militia that’s mission is to protect Yale as an institution.
Who will I call if not the YPD?
We demand that Yale implement a differential response system for calls that would currently go to YPD. This means a caller will be directed to a community resource based on their specific problem instead of a police officer. We leave the specifics up to Yale administration to decide, but having an armed force respond to problems like student disputes, noise complaints and reporting stolen property is ridiculous and something that could be handled by Yale Security. Social workers should be responding to issues such as sexual assault, mental health crises and drug abuse, instead having police officers cause trauma and further criminalize addiction and mental illness.
How will I be safe in New Haven from the “fair” amount of crime without YPD?
The fear of New Haven that can be seen in every safety information guide given to prospective students’ parents and every talk YPD holds where they show off their power. This fear is based in classism and racism. If being in a city with mainly black and brown working families makes you uncomfortable, and your instinct is to send in private armed forces, there is a deeper problem for you to consider than crime stats. The question of safety in New Haven relies on two assumptions: (1) police are the best way at preventing crime and that (2) crime is inherent to New Haven. First, there is no evidence that police prevent crime. Crime does not occur in a vacuum and it doesn’t come from nowhere. Getting to the root causes of crime, like poverty, lack of mental health resources, lack of community space, lack of youth services, lack of affordable housing and so on stop crimes from ever happening. This should be the goal, not locking up huge swaths of our population. Second, New Haven does not have to have crime. New Haven is just a location where people live without the resources of an affluent community. Yale is specifically complicit in this, as they do not pay their fair share of taxes to New Haven and have participated in the gentrification of land for stores and housing specifically targeted to students. If we want to keep everyone in the community safe, we should be putting that money into the community, not a militarized private police force.
Who will stop an armed shooter?
Do we really care about our troubled youth so little that the only way we address a potential shooter is through a bullet to the chest? This question assumes that policing is the only deterring factor to school shooters. What about our poor mental health resources? Shitty gun control laws? America has the most militarized police/police in schools and still has the most school shootings… so clearly more police isn’t the answer. We demand that Yale put the budget of YPD into New Haven community resources, the resources that actually help prevent violence like school shootings. Solving America’s mental health crisis and gun control crisis will not happen overnight, but the first step is investing in stopping the problem, not arming private police forces. For the small possibility that there is an active shooter in the community, many police abolitionists believe there will always be a need for a small force that stops crime physically in the case of immediate life-threatening situations, which are rare, but that force should not be private, and is a discussion to have with the city. If you really think YPD’s main purpose is to stop school shootings and rid schools of violence, ask why they have almost a 100 officers, patrol far outside the bounds of the school they are “protecting”, buy ten thousand dollar electric tricycles, and spend most of their time dealing with stolen laptops while carrying guns.
Will the NHPD just replace YPD?
No, our demands state that Yale must divest from any policing, which includes NHPD. Currently YPD is funded by Yale, and is a way Yale avoids taxes to New Haven. Without this Yale would have to invest more in the community, and we are also demanding that Yale use a differential response model for students who would have originally been calling YPD.