Three Officers Apply to Become Chief of Consolidated Princeton

Princeton Borough Police Chief David Dudeck, Acting Princeton Township Chief Christopher Morgan and Princeton Township Lt. Robert Toole have applied to become the chief of the new Princeton, sources have confirmed.

Three other Borough officers below Dudeck’s rank were eligible to apply but did not. The deadline to apply was yesterday. Last month a lawyer for the Borough’s police union wrote a letter arguing that under state law, Dudeck is the only officer eligible for the top post in the united Princeton.

In the daily soap opera that the consolidation process has become, with politicians maneuvering behind the scenes in an ongoing drama some have dubbed Survivor Princeton, the process for selecting the chief seems to take a new turn every week.

Originally the target date for selecting the chief was set for June 15. But last week officials announced that the unions for the Borough and Township police wrote a letter supporting any officer with the rank of lieutenant or higher being able to apply for the chief post. Within the Borough PBA there are contradictory reports about how the letter came about and  the timing of the letter.

Prior to that announcement, Dudeck appeared to be in line for the post and was interviewed by Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner and Township Committeewoman Liz Lempert, sources said. The Borough Mayor did not know about the meetings.

The recent union letter contradicts a previous letter from the Borough PBA’s lawyer stating that Dudeck is “the only eligible candidate for the position of police chief of a consolidated Princeton” because he outranks other officers, including Morgan, who is acting chief but would revert to the rank of lieutenant after consolidation.

Last month Borough Councilman Kevin Wilkes nominated Dudeck for the post but then withdrew the motion after Township officials agreed they would not promote any of their officers permanently prior to the selection of a chief. Some Borough officials had been told the Township was making a move to promote several officers as soon as possible so that the Township would be represented in the top ranks of the consolidated department.

Township Lawyer Ed Schmierer has argued that current police rank does not matter after the two towns are consolidated because Princeton will be a brand new community and can start with a new slate. The PBA lawyer and other labor lawyers argue otherwise and site various statutes, including N.J.S.A. 40A:14-129, which says “due consideration shall be given to the member or officer so proposed for the promotion, to the length and merit of his service and preference shall be given according to seniority in service.”

Township officials have been pushing for one of their officers to take a top post in the consolidated police force, arguing the Township deserves representation at the top. They said Borough police are not familiar with Township roads or many of the residents. Yet the borough and Township police departments often cover for each other (when one department is in a staff meeting, for example) and provide back up for each other.  In recent weeks, officers have started riding in patrol cars together.

Elected officials are expected to discuss the police chief selection at a joint governing body meeting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall.

Dudeck has been a member of the Princeton Borough Police Department for 29 years and was named chief in 2009.  He has been a patrolman, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, operations lieutenant, and administrative lieutenant. He also served as the department’s DARE officer, Juvenile Officer, and has been a member of the safe neighborhood’s unit.  He received a bachelor’s degree from Trenton State College and has done graduate course work at Seton Hall University.

Morgan became acting chief after Chief Robert Buchanan abruptly announced his retirement and was put on a paid leave of absence for the rest of the year. His retirement technically does not begin until Jan. 1 of 2012. Morgan joined the police force in 1997. In Princeton, he has served in served as patrol officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He was promoted to the position of lieutenant in April of  last year after the Township police department lost  former chief Mark Emman and two top ranking officers in the wake of a criminal investigation. Morgan earned a bachelor’s degree in law and justice from The College of New Jersey and a master’s degree in human resources training and development from Seton Hall University.

Toole joined the police department in 1986. He has been dispatcher, patrol officer, arson investigator, field training officer, patrol sergeant and traffic officer. He was also promoted to the rank of lieutenant last April. He is an instructor at the Mercer County Police Academy and has been a member of the Princeton Hook and Ladder Company for nearly three decades. He earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Mercer County Community College, a bachelor’s degree in liberal Arts from Rider College and a graduate degree in administrative services from Farleigh Dickinson University.