Princeton’s Mayor and Council have reportedly “offered” resignation or investigation to Police Chief David Dudeck because certain officers within his department claim he engaged in inappropriate intra-departmental communications.
The public needs Mayor and Council to conduct an appropriate investigation of the allegations and the credibility of those who made them. Our elected representatives would shirk their statutory accountability for police management not to pursue such an investigation, regardless of a resignation by Chief Dudeck.
This is not to pre-judge the allegations against Chief Dudeck: who knows what truth lies in police precincts? But one thing is clear: fueled by management/union and Borough/Township tensions, the legacy of intra-departmental politics that plagued both the former Borough and Township police has degenerated to a new low in the newly consolidated department.
A few years ago, Borough Chief Anthony Federico led a poorly-executed effort to reorganize the department, resulting in the firing, suspension, or indictment of no less than one third of the Borough force. The Borough’s governing body took a hands-off approach to the near collapse of the department.
When the last two Township police chiefs each resigned governing body never brought the facts to light but, instead, granted the chiefs handsome retirement packages and buried any analysis of police dysfunction.
Successive failures by Princeton governing bodies to manage their police departments have resulted in millions of dollars – yes, millions – in unjustifiably high personnel costs, unnecessary lawsuit awards, settlements and legal fees, and bad police morale. Mismanagement wastes tax money and impairs public safety.
History will repeat if Mayor and Council fail to address the systemic problems underlying the allegations against Chief Dudeck simply by “offering” him resignation and an expensive retirement, and then reshuffling the deck of officers in the newly consolidated department.
Princeton’s new governing body must demonstrate that it has the mettle to deal with the intra-departmental tensions that are behind the pending allegations. It must pursue an appropriate investigation to assure Princetonians that it is their informed elected representatives, and not a cadre of over-politicized police officers, who control the public safety functions of the community.
Mr. Martindell is a lawyer and former Princeton Borough Councilman.