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James F. Ahern papers

Call Number: MS 2086

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of the personal papers of James F. Ahern, documenting his position as chief of police for New Haven, Connecticut. Included are materials related to student and police activities during May Day 1970 at Yale University, wiretapping by the New Haven police, and Ahern's role as a member of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest in 1970. Also included are photographs of Ahern, posters, magazine articles authored by and concerning Ahern, audio and visual recordings of Ahern's media appearances, scrapbooks with speeches and news clippings, correspondence by Ahern and family, and Rolodex cards with names and contact information for Ahern’s colleagues in police administration.


  • 1954 - 2017

Language of Materials

The materials are in English

Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Original audiovisual materials, as well as preservation and duplicating masters, may not be played. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist must pay for a use copy, which is retained by the repository. Researchers wishing to obtain an additional copy of non-commercially produced items for their personal use should consult the ordering reproductions information on the Manuscripts and Archives web site.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by James F. Ahern was transferred to Yale University in 2018. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Jennifer G. Ahern, 2018.


The collection is arranged into seven groupings: New Haven Police Department, President's Commission on Campus Unrest, Speeches and writings, Scrapbooks and printed media, Correspondence, Photographs, and Audiovisual material.


11.34 Linear Feet (42 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection consists of the personal papers of James F. Ahern, documenting his position as chief of police for New Haven, Connecticut.

Biographical / Historical

James F. Ahern was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1932. Ahern first joined the New Haven Police Department as a patrolman in 1954, and in 1968 was appointed police chief. Ahern presided as police chief in 1970 during the May Day student protests at Yale University and the New Haven Black Panthers trial. Ahern was credited for his efforts to diffuse the tense situation surrounding the protests and ensure they did not become violent. After leaving the New Haven Police Department in 1970, Ahern became a critic of violent police tactics, authoring a book, Police in Trouble: Our Frightening Crisis in Law Enforcement. In 1970 Ahern served on the President's Commission on Campus Unrest (also known as the Scranton Commission), which investigated violent clashes between college students and police at Kent State University and Jackson State University. He also served as director of the Insurance Crime Prevention Institute in Westport, Connecticut until his retirement in 1982. Ahern died in 1986.

Guide to the James F. Ahern Papers
Ahern (James F.) Papers
In Progress
compiled by Robert Bartels
February 2019
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
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(203) 432-7441 (Fax)


Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
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New Haven, CT 06511

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