Town of Princeton Refers Councilwoman’s 911 Call to Prosecutor’s Office


On September 18, Princeton Councilwoman Jo Butler made a 911 call from the Dinky station because she was concerned about whether the Princeton Police or Princeton University Public Safety respond to such emergency calls.

Previously at a Council meeting in September, she received conflicting answers as to whether calls made from a cell phone are routed to campus public safety or the police.  So she decided to make a call herself and see who answered. She asked which department she was calling and identified herself as an elected official.

The result of the call, which went to the Princeton Police dispatch: She is now under investigation by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office for making a false 911 call.

The Princeton Police flagged the issue and referred the matter to Administrator Robert Bruschi, who then contacted the Mercer County Prosecutor about the issue, a police official said. No charges have been filed in the case so far.

“I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong,” Butler told Planet Princeton. “I’ve been interested in this important public safety issue for a long time. The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office knows a great deal about this issue. I’m happy to have an investigation.  I’ll be glad to talk more about it when the investigation has been completed.”

The issue of who responds to emergency calls has been a matter of concern for some public officials over the past year. It has not always been clear who responds to which Princeton University buildings off campus, and there was confusion about who responds to cell phone calls.

Butler and other officials expressed concerns about possible delays or miscommunication in routing more serious incidents from Princeton University to the Princeton Police. The town and University later reached an agreement about which department would handle what issues.

Police Capt. Nick Sutter said he could not comment on the Butler case today because it is under investigation by the county.


  1. I thank Jo for her efforts to check the effectiveness of our 911 system. Back when we had the Township-Borough divide, it was a real mess for those of us who lived right on the border. I once had my 911 call forwarded back and forth from one to the other, and then got disconnected, and neither police department seemed to know what to do with the call. It’s far better to test these things out before a real emergency happens.

    1. There is a right way of doing things, and then there was her way, which was clearly wrong. It should have been done differently, with transparency and preparation. Clearly the call taker had no idea what was going on, and had some woman on the other end of the 911 phone for a reason other than an emergency. While her idea might have been to do the right thing, she went about it the wrong way and clearly broke the law. Politician or not, it was wrong.

  2. I think it is ridiculous to waste resources in such an investigation that has been already answered by the author of the call. The prisecutor’s office obviously has not a lot of cases to investigate. Speaking of priorities upside down. The reason of the call was because there was no clear answer, and she decided to figure out herself. I don’t see any wrong doing. I see ore big time messy stuff happening that is overlooked; so, get a grip, people, stop the nonsense.

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  4. “I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong,” Butler told Planet Princeton”. I’ve been told by people my whole life that ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. The NJ criminal code spells it out clearly: 2C:33-3e states ” A person is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if the person knowingly places a call to a 9-1-1 emergency telephone system without purpose of reporting the need for 9-1-1 service.” Seems pretty straightforward to me, doesn’t it? If she wanted to find out where the calls went to, wouldn’t it have been prudent to arrange a formal test where it was known before hand that the calls were going to be made? Conducting your own investigation was wrong, and you broke the law.

    1. she should be flat out fired~~oh thats right , shes a “Politition” and can make her own laws

  5. I don’t think anybody wants to see this turn into a big deal, but Jo should be brave enough to admit her mistake and apologize. Then let’s all move on. 911 exists for just one purpose, and that is to report emergencies. We should definitely keep it that way. If Jo can’t see that what she has done is wrong, then that is a worrying sign.

    911 responders already have enough cranks wasting their time because they lost their car keys, or they want to know what day to put the recycling out, or just because they’re feeling lonely. Politicians shouldn’t be using 911 to find out information. They have plenty of other legitimate ways to do that.

  6. From what I gather from police television programs, unwarranted and yes, illegal 911 calls are somewhat common and not usually subject to press conferences. It appears that the 911 operator quickly determined that the call was not an emergency. Although the call was not proper, it was not without reason or utility. Perhaps the police are using this as an opportunity to focus on the troublesome ambiguity regarding 911 coverage and jurisdiction between the University security force and the police.

    1. I don’t think intentional non-emergency calls to a 911 center are common, and I’ve NEVER heard of a politician doing it, especially one who knows what she is doing. Maybe the accidental calls are people who hit 911 instead of 411, or people misdialing international calls, or hitting the wrong keys since the first three digits in many Princeton numbers start with 921 (very close to 911). None of that applies here, since it was clear from the start that JoBo knew before she dialed 911 that she was going to call that number without any emergency. In fact, she was dialing for her OWN SELFISH PURPOSE. She was not conducting any organized drill where the police knew in advance that calls may start flowing in that were not emergencies. No extra staff was on hand to help in her study. For all she knew, she dialed 911 in the middle of a true emergency, thus tying up the dispatcher who was involved in someone having a heart attack or someone reporting an accident. What she did was illegal, plain and simple, and she knew it before she did it. And the fact that the town turned it over the the prosecutors office was the proper thing to do. They must distance themselves and let an agency other than their own do the investigation, otherwise they look like they are coddling their own if they choose not to file a complaint with the court.

  7. Who responds to 911 calls on campus has been a concern for
    years. The unease to goes to PU’s exertion of control to on events beyond its jurisdiction both on the campus and Prospect. Now that the public train is
    squarely on the private property of the University this should raise the
    concern of the Council. Perhaps Ms. Butler’s faux pas will produce the needed investigation into this matter and get it explained. That would be the
    best outcome. But that said, only In Princeton would such an ant hill be made into a mountain or are we to believe that is Ms. Butler a serial prankster? No.
    The Prosecutor should reprimand the council for wasting it’s time with this matter. What
    message does this method of response send to the local tax-payer about our
    council? Is the council taking is cues for collegiality from our dysfunctional Congress?

    1. Disagree- it’s the job of the Prosecutor is to decide who gets prosecuted. Deciding who to prosecute is not the job of the 911 operator, the police, or Mr Bruschi. If any of these public servants decided to let the matter slide, they could rightly be accused of failure to follow protocol, over-stepping their authority or even doing a cover-up on Ms Butler’s behalf. They were behaving entirely appropriately to pass the matter to the Prosecutor’s office. Now, I would like to think and in fact I fully expect that Ms Butler would get off with a mild admonishment, but if she persists with her pleading that she has done nothing wrong, then she is setting a terrible example and inviting the Prosecutor to take the matter further.

      1. SFB are you psychic or how is it that you always seem to be able to read the minds of the people involved in any given situation??? Please.

        1. Yes, I am actually psychic. Don’t bother writing a sarcastic reply, because I already know what you’re going to write!

  8. At the very least, she acted unprofessionally and unethically. At worst, Ms. Butler knowingly broke the law. The prosecutor will decide whether or not to charge her. It is troubling that she attempted to use her official status to intimidate the dispatcher into letting her off the hook. Governing isn’t for everyone.

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