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Yale blue meets NHPD blue

"The law" means one thing to those who study and teach it in ivy-covered classrooms. It has a very different meaning to those who enforce the law, and those who break it, on the nearby city streets.

Yale Law School professors Tracey Meares and Tom Tyler are trying to bridge that gap—not through a clinic that provides legal services to people in need, but by turning their research into action.

The result: cutting-edge research and policing practices in New Haven, New York, Chicago, and other cities.

“We’re really concerned with getting law rolled out to the street,” Tyler says in a recent Yale Law Report article. “This is not about abstract legal doctrine.”

With Yale sociologist Andrew Papachristos and a host of local, state, and federal  officials, they are inventing new techniques and refining older ones to reduce gun violence and murder rates.

At the heart of the effort are data—and heart. In New Haven's Project Longevity, academics and law enforcement investigators conducted "painstaking studies of the gangs (which Meares prefers to call 'groups') . . ., identifying who is in each group and which groups have issues with each other," the Law Report reports.

Then come the "call-ins": face-to-face meetings with gang members. The cops and professors convey a double-barreled message.

The first half, in the Law Report's words: "we all are members of the same community. We want you to stop shooting. We are here for you."

The message's second half, in Meares's words: "The next time someone from your group shoots someone from another group, we are going to use whatever legal leverage we have to hold all of the people in your group accountable. Delinquent child support, back taxes—whatever we have, we will use.”

The collaboration also includes a Law School course on "Innovations in Policing," which Meares and Tyler co-taught with New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman, and a pilot program called Command College, which one of its organizers compares to a medical residency for top cops.

Filed under Law School, policing, Tracey Meares, Tom Tyler, Andrew Papachristos
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