Clam Jam/Fairfield Beach Incident 4/27/19

On 4/27/2019 the annual Clam Jam was held at Penfield Beach. The event is an end of the year party sponsored by Fairfield University in close coordination with numerous organizations, and agencies to include the Fairfield Police Department. Tickets are required to attend, and the party includes music, food, and beer for students of legal age. Police officers are assigned to the event to ensure a safe and enjoyable party, and to maintain order in the neighborhood as students travel to and from the beach. The latter is especially important given the quality of life complaints neighbors have made over the years regarding student behavior. These include: Public drinking, loud parties, impeding traffic, yelling, swearing, littering, vandalism, and urinating on private property. Due to the outstanding planning and coordination among all the stakeholders, great strides have been made in these areas over the years and this year, despite attendance by more than 1600 students, no complaints were received from the neighborhood.

Among the 1600 attendees was a 20-year-old student who became intoxicated and had to be steadied and escorted to a medical tent the university set up and staffed. One of the specific purposes of the tent was to medically evaluate and observe students who appeared too intoxicated to function, and/or were at risk of incapacitation. Approximately 8 students in all were evaluated there during the course of the event. While being evaluated by medical staff, the student became very unruly and belligerent towards staff and police officers and at one point tried to run away. The Dean of Students responded and attempted to reason with the student, but to no avail. Eventually the dean decided the student had to leave the party and was going to be taken home. He left the beach under escort by the dean, yelling the entire time.

A short time later, officers assigned to Fairfield Beach Rd, near Lalley Blvd, unaware of what occurred inside the party, observed the same student run past them eastbound on Fairfield Beach Rd. As he did so he shouted obscenities at them and “gave them the finger”. The officers ignored him completely and the student continued on his way in the direction of Penfield Beach.

As the student approached the front of Penfield Beach, he ran past a second contingent of officers and did the same thing. He was completely ignored by these officers as well. The student then turned around and ran westbound on Fairfield Beach Rd, repeating his behavior as he past the officers a second time. He was again ignored completely.

As he continued westbound in the street, officers observed the student suddenly take a left into a driveway on the beach side. Believing he either was trying to reenter the Clam Jam by sneaking in, or was trespassing on private property, two officers entered the driveway. When they did, they observed the student up against a fence preparing to urinate on the ground, which is among one of the chief complaints neighbors have. When officers questioned him, he began yelling and swearing and stated he lived at the home. Suspicious that he was urinating on the ground in his own yard instead of using a bathroom, the officers asked for an ID, which when presented had an address from a different street in town. All the while, the student was yelling and swearing. The officers never raised their voices nor did they engage in any behavior that they themselves were being subjected to by the student.

The student attempted to walk back into the street but an officer put her arm up, palm out, to stop him, because traffic, especially Ubers picking up students, began flooding the area. The student continued advancing on her pressing his chest against her hand in an attempt to get past her, but he failed to do so. Eventually he stopped, but not before numerous cars had to stop due to his behavior.

As a third officer approached the door of the home to confirm his claim of residency, a woman came out and asked what was going on. When the officer asked if the student was her son, she replied “Yes” at which point the officer asked, “Can you take him inside, he’s really drunk?” The woman engaged the officer in an extremely hostile tone, used profanities, and accused the officer of being racist.  Again, the officer did not raise his voice or make any comments that would escalate the situation.  The officer reiterated his request and concern for the student’s safety due to intoxication.  The women took her sons hand and escorted him into the home.  The entire event lasted less than 3 minutes.

The officers involved did their best not to engage the student at all; instead, they ignored him, and only acted when the student breached the threshold of someone’s private property. Even then, they only acted in a reasonably inquisitive manner in order to determine the student’s right to be, or not be, on the property. They never raised their voices, never stuck or used any force on the subject, and never had any intention of arresting him.  He was never searched or patted down.  The only concern was for the student’s safety because of intoxication.

The officers involved acted properly, reasonably and with great restraint and patience. Collectively, they absorbed a great deal of repeated verbal abuse from the student and his mother, which they completely ignored. Racism played no part in this encounter whatsoever, and any attempt to paint it in such a manner is completely false. This encounter was entirely caused by the intoxicated behavior of the student.

After a thorough review of the incident, which included interviews with independent witnesses, we have found no reason to believe that race played any factor in this 3 minute encounter on Fairfield Beach Road and applaud these 4 officers for their restraint and tolerance of the hateful language they were subjected to.

The men and women of the Fairfield Police Department continue to be open and engaged with the community.  We support meaningful discussions on how to improve relations and foster a continued dialogue.  Our officers always strive to keep our community safe and all-inclusive.