Planet Princeton

Police Show Reporter Video of Princeton Professor’s Booking

imani_perry_princeton_prof_police.png_1733209419The head of the local police department allowed Planet Princeton to view a video of Princeton University Professor Imani Perry’s Feb. 8 arrest booking on Friday afternoon.

Police will not release copies of Perry’s booking video to the press, arguing that the video is exempt from the state’s Open Public Records Act for security reasons. Police will also not allow the booking room to be filmed or photographed, even when empty, citing the same security reasons.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office has conducted an initial investigation in the case, reviewing the dash cam and booking room videos, and has found no wrongdoing by the Princeton Police. Perry was supposed to meet with the prosecutor’s office about the matter Wednesday, but she canceled the meeting. Unless she comes forward with new information, the case will be closed.

After her arrest last Saturday, Perry posted on social media that she was mistreated by the police and received disparate treatment because she is black.

The Video

The booking room video, viewed by Planet Princeton at police headquarters, shows the female officer who drove Perry to the station escorting her into the booking room at 9:41 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Perry’s hands are cuffed behind her back when she enters. Immediately after she enters, she is seated across from a work station, her handbag is placed on a the workstation in front of her, and the officer uncuffs her right wrist. The left wrist remains handcuffed and the officer then attaches the handcuff that was previously on Perry’s right wrist to another handcuff chain that is attached to a silver bar. The silver bar is connected to the front of the booking work station, which looks like a long desk.

Perry is allowed to take items from her handbag, and about 39 seconds into the video she takes her cell phone from her bag and begins texting people. She has her phone in her hand and spends the next several minutes texting.

A police officer sitting across from her processes her paperwork, she reaches in her handbag for her wallet, and then pays her fine. Her left wrist is then uncuffed at 10:03 a.m. Her photograph and fingerprints are taken, and she leaves the booking room at 10:17 a.m.

Policies and Warrants

Princeton Police Chief Nicholas Sutter, who has led the department since mid 2013, the year Princeton Borough and Princeton Township consolidated and the two police forces were merged, said the police department’s current policy, considered a best practice in the state, is to handcuff every person who is arrested. The only exceptions are when someone has a physical injury, is pregnant and almost due, or is accompanied by an infant. When a person is arrested and can’t make bail or is waiting to be sent to another law enforcement agency, the person is placed in a cell, Sutter said.

In 2015, the Princeton Police Departent made 339 bench warrant arrests. A bench warrant is a court order commanding police to arrest someone. If a person has an outstanding parking ticket but there is no active warrant for the person’s arrest, police do not take any action. Parking tickets don’t come into play during a motor vehicle stop if there is no active warrant. It is a court matter, not a police matter, until a warrant is issued.

Sutter said police must arrest the person if they discover the person has an active warrant. Warrants are issued by the court for failure to appear when a person does not pay two or more parking tickets, ignores two court dates, and does not respond to notices sent in the mail.

Perry was pulled over by a Princeton officer for driving 67 miles per hour in a 45-mile-per hour zone on Mercer Street near Quaker Road on Feb. 8. She did not have her registration when she was pulled over. A computer search showed she had an outstanding warrant from the Princeton Municipal Court for failure to appear for two parking-related tickets. Her Pennsylvania license had been revoked for reasons unrelated to the Princeton tickets. According to Pennsylvania public records, she has two outstanding cases in the state, one for not paying parking tickets and another for driving an unregistered vehicle.

When police make an arrest in Princeton, regardless of what the arrest is for, the person is supposed to be patted down and cuffed, Sutter said. At the police station, everyone is supposed to be cuffed while they are being booked.

“That’s the policy. Everyone who is arrested, regardless of the alleged offense, is supposed to be treated the same regardless of the charges, race, socioeconomic status, or where the person is employed,” he said.  “Everyone is cuffed for the officer’s safety and their own. A person may not be dangerous, but we have to treat everyone equally. It’s not a situation where you want people using discretion.”

Sutter said to his knowledge, every person who was arrested on a warrant in 2015 was cuffed.  “If they were not, then the officer was not following the proper policy,” he said.

When asked about pat-downs, Sutter said a pat-down is not a body search. Pockets are checked for items, and shoes are also checked. There is not a policy in the Princeton Police Department that says a pat-down must be done by an officer who is the same gender as the person being arrested, but Sutter was quick to say that in the aftermath of the Perry arrest, the department is looking at creating a policy that would call for an officer of the same gender to conduct the pat-down if there is an officer of the same gender who is available.

Sutter has also been an advocate of town police wearing body cameras. The cost is an issue, but he and the police union want the cameras for the department if the town has the funding.

Comparing Arrests

Planet Princeton solicited stories from readers this week about their experiences related to warrant arrests.

A white female lawyer who lives in Princeton said she was arrested about a year and a half ago in the Whole Earth Center parking lot because her car registration had expired. She said she was handcuffed and patted down by a female officer before she was placed in the patrol car. The officer checked to make sure there was nothing in her pockets or socks. There was no touching near private areas, she said. She recalls the handcuffs being removed so her mugshot could be taken.

“I remember I was angry because they made me remove my sunglasses from the top of my head for the mugshot,” she said. “I was mostly angry and embarrassed at myself for not renewing my registration. The police were no nonsense – not mean, but not going out of their way to be friendly either. It was just efficient.”

A white male business owner downtown who is also a Princeton resident was arrested in front of his own store in mid 2015 for a warrant for not paying his parking tickets.

“The officer casually looked up my license, as they do often, while driving behind me. The officer explained why she pulled me over and then said she had to take me to the station to settle the fine and that I would need to be handcuffed,” he said. ” I questioned why handcuffed and she calmly explained that she had to follow procedures. Humiliating? Yes. Excessive? Yes. Necessary? Yes, until someone changes the law or procedures. One thing this humiliating event taught me is to pay any parking tickets on time.”

But a white Rutgers University Professor who was pulled over in January of 2010 in the former Princeton Borough said she was treated better than Perry.  After doing a u-turn on Nassau Street and being pulled over on Vandeventer Avenue, she was arrested for a warrant from East Windsor for not paying parking tickets. Her sixth-grade son was in the mini-van with her, the female police officer drove them to the school, let the mother walk him to class, and then took the mother to the station. She was never handcuffed or patted down, and said the police were really nice about the situation and almost apologetic.

Planet Princeton is currently reviewing police stops, warrant arrests, and other data to assess claims of disparate treatment based on race. A follow up story will be posted when the review is complete.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Rich

    What I’m not getting is what are people suggesting happening? Especially for people with out of state plates?

    I also object to this notion that this purely to generate revenue for the township. It is also there to give everyone a chance to find a parking space and not just park there all day.

    Interesting that people agree to the extreme, i think. if a person had 100 unpaid parking tickets, do you think that person should be arrested? I’m fine with the answer being “no” if the answer is to impound the car instead and that person has to pay the impound fees, and everything in order for them to get the car back. But what is reasonable? 100? 10? 5?

    In this case, 2 unpaid parking tickets… Fine, she would still be stopped for speeding. I’d be fine with the officers impounding her car right there and then and let her get to the police station by herself…

    But the issue here is the treatment (or alleged and later proved false mistreatment). Police following procedure.

  • Robert Dana

    Lots of people have law degrees and some from fancy institutions — like Harvard Law School. But l, unless they’ve actually practiced law, and here, in the criminal arena, they don’t know squat about the law.

    I attended a law school every bit the equal of Harvard. And in my 35 years of practicing law I learned, repeatedly, that law school professors know little if nothing about the practice of law.

    And that’s law school professors. Dr. Perry isn’t even a law school professor. She’s a liberal art professor in a department that studies herself.

  • Daphne

    He didn’t pay the fine because of procrastination. The letter said arrest was likely. Perhaps it was intended to motivate him to pay, which it did. My reason for mentioning his race was to show that a non Black person received identical treatment.

    Personally, I think they should be able to resolve matters like unpaid parking and jaywalking tickets without anyone ending up in cuffs. At lest it Princeton, though, it seems like the rules apply to everyone regardless of race.

  • Danni Martin

    Yea, ;like we would beleive a liar like her

  • for the record

    For what it’s worth, I took a tour of the police department with a group recently and many photos were taken in the booking area. No one said anything about security.

  • Mike

    She had a lot of baggage that has to be cleaned up. You must come into court with clean hands & she knows this as a lawyer. She needs to clean up her act ,pay the tickets, get her vehicles registered properly & carry insurance & registration in the car all the time. It’s the law. Come on now!

  • Liz

    So your husband, who happens to be Asian, decides to disregard a ticket until he is reminded of it via a letter. What I make of it is that he should have either paid the ticket or go to court to dispute it. There are clear instructions on the ticket. Why you are trying to make this into something when the error was on his part?

  • FreshAir

    we have too many here already, you’re right, SFB.

  • Professor Scofflaw

    She has “fans?” Heaven help us.

  • SFB

    Just…no…not acceptable. There are good black people and bad black people, just like with any group. Sickening to see out-of-town racists jumping in here.

  • Johnny Monday

    It’s getting to the point where one simply cannot trust anything a black says.

  • Steel Man

    Perry has a law degree from Harvard University. It is preposterous for her to play dumb about the consequences of not paying tickets, driving with a suspended license and driving without registration. I remember getting a speeding ticket for driving 11 mph over the limit through exclusive Paradise Valley, AZ, Dan Quayle’s hometown. I might have complained that I was ticketed because I had a van full of Mexican kids (driving them home from a Little League game), but didn’t. I went to traffic school where everyone had to talk about their offenses. Everyone had been driving faster than me… some of them really fast. Practically every one of them was a victim and whined about getting a ticket. When it was my turn all had to say was: “You people broke the law. Man up and take your medicine.”

  • Rich

    Soooooo why didn’t he pay the fine. If you disagreed, the court date is on the ticket.. Simply ignoring, is contempt of court.

    Sounds like you are incorrect I saying the arrest was imminent as what you are describing is that a warrant had been issued.

    Facts –

    Perry had multiple tickets and ignored
    Warrant was issued
    Her pa license was suspended
    She was caught speeding and going 67 in. 45 zone
    She was not able to produce her registration nor insurance
    She changed addresses and by law, she is responsible for updating

    What gives her the right to continually break the law in Princeton?

    Oh, and the police were courteous and followed proper procedure. Are you saying they should break from procedure and break the law by ignoring the court order?

  • tdsthomas

    What does being Asian have to do with it?

  • daphne

    My husband, who is Asian and also a university employee, received a ticket for jaywalking across Nassau Street around 7 one morning. He didn’t pay the fine until we received a letter informing him that his arrest was imminent. He mistakenly went to the police department instead of the violations office to pay his fine. Once he was there, they “had to” arrest him. The procedure he went through sounds identical to what Planet Princeton describes for Professor Perry. Make of that what you will

  • LincolnTony

    I am a strong advocate of police body cameras and dash cameras because of cases just like this one. Had there been no camera, those officers likely would have lost their jobs over these baseless accusations.

  • basildave

    This cop was also almost apologetic and the fact is that she would never have been allowed to drive to the station because her PA license was suspended, so in the case of the Rutgers professor, this is apples and oranges.

  • D C

    has this racist woman been fired yet? her intention was to negatively affect the reputations of extremely professional and polite officers. She is a liar and should face consequence.

  • Pat Palmer

    Good reporting, Planet Princeton. Thank you.

  • SFB

    Also: where’s President Waldo? Very quick with the emails and phone calls last weekend…but he’s disappeared since his faculty member was shown to have a string of offenses and falsely accused the local police. If anyone can find him please ask for an apology!

  • SFB

    I agree that we’re dealing with an inveterate scofflaw here, but for what it’s worth she told her fans on social media that she took care of her suspended license last Monday.

  • Professor Scofflaw

    Based on her other apparent issues in Pennsylvania, it appears we’re dealing with an inveterate scofflaw. Her license is likely still suspended, to boot. Do you imagine she has stopped driving?

  • SFB

    Good reporting, but I still don’t see anything to substantiate her claims of mistreatment or racial targeting.
    Another point: was Dr Perry ever able to produce evidence of having her vehicle insured? It seems that her vehicle was unregistered, and she had a suspended license, which would make it very hard to get insurance. If she was driving around without insurance, that is even more concerning.

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