Prosecutor’s Office Will Not Pursue Charges Related to Councilwoman’s 911 Call


The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office announced this afternoon that it has concluded its investigation into the 911 call made by Princeton Councilwoman Jo Butler.  No charges will be filed in the matter.

“At our discretion, it was deemed appropriate to issue Ms. Butler a warning, which is not uncommon for a first time infraction of this nature,” wrote a spokeswoman for the office in an email to reporters.

On September 18, 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.

“I had a productive conversation with the prosecutor’s office and I  apologized to them and to Capt. Sutter of the police department,” Butler told Planet Princeton. “I’m glad I can move on and focus on the important business of the town. I assume the issue I’ve raised concerns about is going to be addressed by the university and the police, and I trust that they will address it.”

At a Council meeting in September, Butler received conflicting answers from a police representative and a university representative 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 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.

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.


  1. A warning might be appropriate for someone who didn’t realize they were doing something illegal. Butler just didn’t care, and thought her own interests outweighed the law’s.

    1. Her own interests? Like making sure public officials understood how 911 is supposed to work and, if it in fact works as intended because the people who should have been able to give her unequivocal answers couldn’t?

      This was not a crank call.

      911 routing can be complicated. Calling 911 from a cell phone doesn’t always go where you’d expect. Sometimes that’s by design. Sometimes it’s because of system load or other technology issues. A Montgomery Township officer once told me that they’ve had calls bounced back to their local dispatch from NYC’s 911 call center.

      I’d like to see a public education campaign to help us understand what we can expect when we dial 911 from a cell phone and what is expected of the caller. I’d also like to see the results of coverage testing involving test calls from different areas using all major carriers. It would have been nice to see those results in the period between the decommissioning of the AT&T/T-mobile antenna on the hospital and the implementation of the mobile cell tower on 206. Heck, it would be interesting to see results now that the temporary antenna operational.

      1. Yes, what she did was wrong. If she really wanted to conduct her own survey of where a 911 call was sent to, she should have arranged for additional manpower to be available to help. The dispatch centers should have been ready for her calls. For all she knew (and she had NO idea), she could have conducted her own “test” during a true emergency that was being answered at that same time. She showed very poor judgement, and yes, I believe she was doing this in her own interest. She asked a question and didn’t get the answer she wanted, so she went out and did something on her own. I’m all for public safety, but she really should have done this as an organized event with the 911 staff already aware of her impending call. If this were anyone else, she would have been charged.

    2. What Jo did was wrong, but she apologized, and I agree with the Prosecutor that the infraction was not so severe as to warrant further action. I wish the people who keep writing that what she did was OK would stop it, though, because it’s really not OK to use an emergency response line to conduct research, even if that research happens to be about emergency responses.

  2. It might not have been absolutely right but certainly. It wasn’t something that needed to be “investigated”. I am happy that she actually put the issue on the table so protocols can be straightened up. So, in my opinion Jo is an elected official who cares, acts on her own, and is not afraid to question things when they are not clear. Jo, Jenny, and Patrick are the most straightforward, honest, and brave council members.

  3. Obvious outcome. Waste of time and money and a long way to go to embarrass a co-worker.

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