Overview of the Yale Police Department (YPD)
The Yale Police Department has 87 sworn police officers with full powers of law enforcement and arrest. Our officers are armed and patrol the campus on foot, by motorcycles, on mountain bikes, and in cars equipped with computers and radio communications systems. If minor offenses involving University rules and regulations are committed by a Yale student, the police may also refer the individual to the Yale College Dean’s Office or other academic officials. Yale Police personnel work closely with local, state, and federal police agencies, including the FBI, Secret Service, and Department of Justice, on campus events, regional law enforcement matters, training, and significant investigations concering the campus community.
Values are ethical statements of principle that bind us together as an organization. Values form the ethical basis for our decision-making. As individuals and as an organization, we subscribe to these values:
- Integrity: Basing our decisions on what is legally and ethically right, safeguarding the legal rights, privileges and dignity of all people.
- Trust: Maintaining the highest level of trust and honesty with those we serve by holding ourselves to the highest standards of performance.
- Commitment: Exhibiting the spirit of determination and dedication that leads to professionalism and the achievement of excellence in every endeavor.
- Courage: Sustaining the mental, moral and physical strength necessary to carry us through the challenges of policing.
The Yale University Police Department takes very seriously its obligation to investigate all allegations of police misconduct and will take appropriate action when warranted. The process for reporting any complaint against any member of the department is simple and straightforward. Community members should contact Police Communications at 203-432-4400 and request to see a supervisory officer. A supervisor will respond and take the initial complaint which most often can be resolved expeditiously at that level. Should any complaint require additional investigation, the matter will be referred to the Office of the Chief, which will assign the matter for investigation.
Partnership with the Community
The Yale University Police Department takes great pride in being part of the greater New Haven community. Our commitment to maintaining this relationship is best exemplified in our mission statement:
"Building on a century of service and achievement, we are dedicated to reducing and preventing crime, serving our community in partnership with the City of New Haven."
Every day, members of the Yale University Police Department perform commendable acts that go by without notice. In an effort to recognize those employees, we have created an online commendation form. We encourage members of our community to spend a few minutes and submit information about a commendable action by one of our police officers or associates so we can properly recognize their actions.
In the late 1800's, relations between Yale students and townspeople were particularly strained. Frequent confrontation between them occurred. Many of these encounters were violent. Yale students were extremely distrustful of the New Haven Police Department since New Haven officers were often sent to quell the disturbances. Many students felt that the officers were prejudiced against them and that they favored the side of the City.
The situation came to a head early in 1894 when a rumor was circulated through the City that Yale medical students had been removing recently buried bodies from local cemeteries for use as cadavers. The result was a mass riot in which many students and townspeople were injured. As a result of the riots, a committee of townspeople and Yale officials was formed. The committee recommended that two New Haven police officers be assigned to the Yale campus. The goal of the recommendation was the improvement of relations between students and the police.
When a notice soliciting volunteers was posted at the New Haven Police Department, only two officers stepped forward, Bill Wiser and Jim Donnelly. When both officers walked onto the campus in September 1894, there were many who thought that they would never return. In some ways, they were right.
In his 1914 book, Yale Memories, Bill Wiser wrote:
"In 1894, Jim Donnelly and I were assigned by the chief of the New Haven police to duty the Yale campus. No policeman before this time had ventured on these sacred grounds, and the campus had come to be considered a place of refuge for students fleeing from the wrath of the city police. Naturally, the boys would be outraged and they would keenly resent the appointment. All of this was foreseen by the New Haven Board of Police Commissioners, for various reasons, it seemed to them absolutely necessary that such a step should be taken. No one was over eager to be offered as the victim in working out the proposition. The whole scheme was peculiar, the situation untried and from what was known regarding the relationship between students and city police, the appointment as patrol of the campus was undesirable from any standpoint. The general belief on the force was that the Yale boys would never permit two policemen to live on campus."
Despite the perceived tensions, Bill Wiser and Jim Donnelly entered the campus and established the first University police department. At first, students looked on them with distrust.
"From our very first appearance on the campus, we felt that we were obnoxious to the college boys. They, one and all, from freshman to seniors, never lost an opportunity to make us realize that we were not wanted. We were, in a way, a mystery. They did not know by what authority we had been placed there. They did not know, but strongly suspected, that the object was to watch them or to spy on their actions, and they heartily resented this. Had they not always been exempt from interference of any kind while on their own ground? Why, then, should these two cops be permitted to enter the charmed and secret enclosure?"
Bill Wiser and Jim Donnelly had their work cut out for them. They were both experienced police officers and had volunteered for this unwanted and unpleasant assignment. They were determined to make the best of it. Commenting on the qualifications necessary for the assignment, Wiser wrote, "The commissioners fully realized the situation. They knew that the men appointed to this duty must have some judgment, tact, and good horse sense, and even so, there could be no assurance of success."
Faced with the fact that they were tackling a job that no one else wanted and in addition, a job possessing such a dismal outlook, Bill Wiser and Jim Donnelly did their best to set about their tasks. Arriving in September of 1894, a few days before classes started, Wiser and Donnelly "felt as green perhaps as the incoming freshmen but determined to do or die." Wiser and Donnelly felt that they had been placed into a defensive position between the whole Yale campus undergraduate body and college and police authorities. They determined that their duties were to, "protect the students, their property, and all college property from injury." There had been a history of thefts from student rooms. "Vagrant peddlers and other objectionable persons had been allowed on the college grounds, had access to student rooms and could steal with little fear of detection."When Yale officials realized the magnitude and obstacles Wiser and Donnelly faced, they took measures to aid them. "The Yale authorities, realizing the ground we had to cover, and the many things we had to distract our attention, and take us from the campus, decided that our whole time at Yale should be devoted to safeguarding Yale buildings and premises. After a short trial, that arrangement was made permanent. Then Jim and I found ourselves real officials of Yale and housed on campus."
As their first order of business, Wiser and Donnelly kept people who did not belong on campus, off campus. After that, Wiser and Donnelly began to establish rapport with the students. At first, this was difficult. After all, they were members of the New Haven Police Department.
"As we were first wholly on the City patrol we were obliged to report at police headquarters like other roundsmen on the force. To get to headquarters, we had to cross the green. The students seeing us concluded that we went to report all that we knew about them. Then too, we were in constant communication with the Dean as well as police, so it was hard for the boys to believe that it was anyone but us who reported them."
In time, Wiser and Donnelly, to everyone's surprise, established a rapport with the students and gained their trust.
Their initial success engendered other problems:
"As our acquaintance and friendship with the boys was constantly on the increase, it came to our knowledge that our success had excited envy in many quarters. The position which we had made for ourselves by hard work, constant service, civility, kindness, and patience, so attracted others that we had trouble of a different nature to fight. Members of the regular force, now that students did not openly resent our presence, desired to take our places on the campus, and were watching for an opportunity to turn things their way. Pressure had been brought to bear on the commissioners to transfer Jim and myself, and appoint others to our places. We promptly resigned from the City police force, were made special constables, and adopted a uniform of our own choosing and design."
These actions, led by a brave and intrepid few, led to the creation of the Yale University Police Department.
Bill Wiser and Jim Donnelly would not recognize the city, campus, or the police department today. Many things have changed in the past century.
While many things have changed, some things never do, as Bill Wiser noted:
"I should advise any young man intending to take a college course, to come to New Haven. Come to Yale and drink from this wonderful fountain. Come to the best place to learn life's lesson. Come and patrol the Yale Campus with Jim Donnelly and yours truly, Bill Wiser."
In the intervening years, thousands of students and hundreds of police officers have answered Bill Wiser's call. Yale students have helped established the reputation of the University as a world-class institution of higher learning. The police officers that followed Bill Wiser and Jim Donnelly have created a diverse, professional, and respected law enforcement agency for the campus.