YPD assigns the right resources to public safety needs

November 20, 2020

Historically, the effectiveness of a police agency was measured in terms of response time. How quickly after a call is received that a patrol unit and officer(s) arrive at the complainant’s location. The theory being that citizen satisfaction was predicated on a rapid response.

Considering the many national events that have happened over the past year, that model is being reworked. The Yale Police Department (YPD) has made some procedural updates and is piloting differential response (DR) methods in a few areas. The idea being to take police officers out of situations that don’t require them and assigning the right resources to public safety needs which is referred to as “differential response” (DR). DR defined is the use of alternate response techniques, including handling non-critical calls, utilizing non-sworn employees, and the increased use of telephone reporting.

The idea is to develop and implement a system of alternative response techniques improving YPD’s productivity by more efficiently using the department’s total resources. “We are looking at what is the most appropriate response when someone calls for help, and what is the best use of our resources,” said Assistant Chief (AC) Anthony Campbell.  

Over the past few months, some updates have been made, starting with the YPD’s dispatch center. Callers are now greeted with “Yale Dispatch, is this a medical, police, or fire emergency?” Normally, two sworn officers, in full uniform, would have been dispatched to a noise complaint or for an intoxicated student. Now, for noise complaints and gatherings over the maximum number allowed (most COVID related), a team of trained Public Health Coordinators (PHC), made up of Yale graduate and professional students are dispatched as a first response. If they can’t dispel the situation, then uniformed officers are called in to assist.

When a call is about an intoxicated student(s) or a mental health issue, two plain-clothed officers respond in an unmarked patrol vehicle.  Throughout the fall, this was tested with positive results. One student thanked the officers for not being in uniform because he would have been embarrassed in front of his friends. “This anecdotal information proves that these new DR methods are working and well received by our community,” said AC Campbell.

After the students leave for the Thanksgiving break, the procedural data from the pilot will be reviewed and tweaked. “If there is a medical emergency, sending two police officers is not always the best response. When people see the police at their door, the first reaction is there must be trouble. You get a different response when an ambulance pulls up. We want to avoid that and handle the problem without it escalating into something more. This sometimes happens because of people’s perception of the police and their uniform,” said AC Campbell.

Since the inception of these programs, there has been some positive feedback coming from the Yale Community. “The PHC students are working out well. They are able to talk to the students reminding them about the rules of physical distancing and mask-wearing. They also carry a supply of masks to give out to people if necessary,” said AC Campbell.

The same feedback has been given about mental health calls. The YPD, as with most law enforcement agencies, used to send two uniformed police officers to do welfare checks. “While all our officers are CIT trained, we’ve decided to send plain-clothed officers to these types of calls and it has been very successful so far,” said AC Campbell. Getting individuals the proper help they need and using alternative resources will enable the YPD to focus on crime or law enforcement related calls and deterring and reducing crime.

“What it boils down to is community wellness, and that includes the officers themselves. They are negatively affected when responding to situations they shouldn’t be sent to. So, it’s going to take a village, and the community must be part of the solution,” said AC Campbell.