To the Yale community:
The Yale Police Department’s response to a crime in progress on Saturday evening has generated substantial and critical conversations on campus and beyond. A Yale police officer detained an African American Yale College student who was in the vicinity of a reported crime, and who closely matched the physical description – including items of clothing – of the suspect. The actual suspect was found and arrested a short distance away.
Many in our community felt personal pain upon reading accounts of this incident on social media and in the press as they saw national debates about race, policing, and the use of force become a very local and personal story. We share these feelings and recognize that the interest in and reaction to this incident underscore that the work of making our campus and our society more inclusive, just, and safe remains an imperative for all of us.
Let us be clear: we have great faith in the Yale Police Department and admire the professionalism that its officers display on a daily basis to keep our campus safe. What happened on Cross Campus on Saturday is not a replay of what happened in Ferguson; Staten Island; Cleveland; or so many other places in our time and over time in the United States. The officer, who himself is African American, was responding to a specific description relayed by individuals who had reported a crime in progress.
Even though the officer’s decision to stop and detain the student may have been reasonable, the fact that he drew his weapon during the stop requires a careful review. For this reason, the Yale Police Department’s Internal Affairs unit is conducting a thorough and expeditious investigation of the circumstances surrounding the incident, and will report the findings of that investigation to us. We, in turn, will share the findings with the community. We ask that you allow us the time needed to collect and examine the facts from everyone involved.
For now, we should seize this moment as an opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow. There are real challenges here where the lines of race, inequality, and policing intersect, and we as teachers, students, and citizens must face them. These are not just someone else’s issues, located somewhere else; they are America’s issues, and they are our issues.
We should also remember in this moment to provide support to the members of our community who have been affected by the events of Saturday night. This includes the individuals directly involved, their families and friends, and anyone who has been troubled, confused, or angered.
We are mindful that an email message is insufficient to address fully all of the issues and questions that have been raised. We need honest conversations, real commitment, and follow-through. That process begins with the internal review, and will continue in the conversations that we will have and the actions we will take as a community. We hope you will join us in doing all that we can to make Yale, and our society, stronger and better.
Dean, Yale College
Chief, Yale Police Department