Less than two months after consolidation, Chief David Dudeck has been told by the town’s public safety committee that he can either retire quietly or be the subject of an investigation, police sources say.
Dudeck has until Monday to decide whether to fight charges that he allegedly created a hostile work environment by sometimes using inappropriate language and making inappropriate comments to officers at work, which some have described as “salty language” or “locker room language and locker room jokes.” More details on what he allegedly said have not been provided.
The Princeton Police Benevolent Association, the union for the consolidated Princeton that is headed by former Princeton Township Officer Ben Gering, has filed a workplace sexual harassment complaint detailing incidents witnessed by about half a dozen former Borough officers, sources said. At least one of the officers is gay and alleges Dudeck used slang language referring to homosexuals, a source said.
The complaint details 15 incidents since 2010 that Dudeck allegedly used bad language or made inappropriate comments in conversation with or in front of some officers.
No complaints were filed regarding the issue during Dudeck’s tenure as chief of the Princeton Borough Police Department, or during his 29-year tenure on the Princeton Borough Police Force. The Princeton Borough and Princeton Township police forces merged January 1.
The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office would not discuss the case, but confirmed that a representative from the office met with the town’s public safety committee Wednesday. The public safety committee is comprised of Mayor Liz Lempert and Princeton Council members Heather Howard and Lance Liverman. The prosecutor’s office steps in whenever a complaint is lodged against a police chief.
“The office met with officials. There is no investigation at this time,” Spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio said in an email Thursday. “We have no further comment.”
Planet Princeton was tipped off about the meeting by a disgruntled former Princeton Borough police officer who was the subject of an internal affairs investigation when Anthony Federico was chief.
“Is there any surprise, really?” the source said about the charges against Dudeck. “After all, Dudeck is a Federico understudy.”
The source also claimed other top level officers who formerly were Borough officers are also “in the hotseat” for Dudeck’s comments.
When Planet Princeton interviewed Dudeck two weeks ago about a new community survey the police department will conduct starting this month, Dudeck seemed upbeat and said he felt the unified department was finally starting to gel.
Princeton Township police officers actively opposed consolidation, putting up anti-consolidation lawn signs and sending letters to residents telling them consolidation would threaten their safety.
Two Princeton Township officers competed with Dudeck for the job of chief of police. Elected Township officials favored putting acting chief Chris Morgan in as chief, but Dudeck and other Borough officers outranked him. A transition task force personnel committee unanimously recommended Dudeck.
A longtime football coach at the Hun School, Dudeck became chief of the Borough in 2009. He succeeded Anthony Federico, who died suddenly while on vacation in Maine. During Federico’s tumultuous tenure, several police officers were the subject of internal affairs investigations and the police force became divided. Dudeck was a lieutenant at the time.
Asking Dudeck to choose between stepping down or facing an investigation is one of the options the public safety committee could have chosen to resolve the issue, sources say. It is unclear if Dudeck has been offered some kind of package as a further incentive to retire. Dudeck could not be reached for comment. The last two chiefs for Princeton Township abruptly retired. Last year, Chief Robert Buchanan retired in March and was put on paid leave until the end of the year.