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Arrest of Princeton Professor Raises Questions About Use of Criminal Justice System for Lesser Offenses

oferGuest Op-Ed By Udi Ofer

The arrest of Princeton University professor Imani Perry for unpaid parking tickets earlier this month is an example of the unfairness of using the criminal justice system to enforce minor offenses.

Why in the world are police departments – in Princeton as well as other municipalities in New Jersey –requiring officers to arrest and handcuff motorists over unpaid parking tickets? Is it really keeping the community safer to imprison these “scofflaws” for failing to pay $50 fines?

We all understand parking meters are a source of civic revenue to help fill the city’s coffers. No one wants to pay a fine. But it makes no sense to treat the failure to pay two parking tickets as a criminal
matter by issuing an arrest warrant and handcuffing and humiliating individuals.

What happened to Professor Perry is an example of the hyper-aggressive enforcement of low-level offenses – offenses that should not as a general rule require arrest or detention. And the data show that it is communities of color that disproportionately face the brunt of the criminal justice system’s enforcement of low-level offenses.

The ACLU-NJ in December published a multi-year study documenting the enforcement of low-level offenses – disorderly conduct, loitering, trespass and possession of small amounts of marijuana – in four  cities. It compared arrest demographics with population and showed that in each city, for the four minor
offenses, blacks were 3 to 10 times more likely to be arrested than whites.

The arrests and convictions for these minor offenses have collateral consequences that could include the loss of a job, loss of a home, and even loss of custody of children, as well as a criminal record that could follow you for the rest of your life, making future employment difficult.

Professor Perry has stopped talking about what happened to her. After the social media backlash she experienced, it’s hard to fault her. Her arrest, however, raises crucial issues that we all must reckon with.

It’s time to stop criminalizing minor infractions like failure to pay a parking fine. Low-level offenses pose virtually no harm to the community. Criminal enforcement of these offenses, however, can lead to escalation between a police officer and a member of the community in confrontations that have turned deadly in the past, as we saw with Eric Garner, who was killed during a confrontation with the NYPD that began as an arrest for selling loose cigarettes.

The police in Princeton appear to have followed policies and procedures in arresting Professor Perry. The question remains, however, whether the policies they followed are appropriate or not. For the ACLU of  New Jersey, the answer is no.

New Jersey should change its policies and not issue arrest warrants for something as minor as two unpaid parking tickets. While it appears that several warnings had been sent in the mail, there are other additional mechanisms in place, outside of the criminal justice system, to ensure that people pay their fines. Municipalities can use collection agents rather than hoisting the burden of enforcing parking violations on police officers, who have more significant matters to attend to. Or in this instance, they could have put a boot on the car until the fine was paid rather than humiliating and potentially harming a community member by taking away her liberty.

The criminal justice system can’t be the solution to every problem. It’s certainly not the solution here.

Udi Ofer is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

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  • PrincetonResident

    What kind of person is sad that they didn’t lose their dog?

    I must have read the post wrong. my error and i apologize.

    The ability to post opinions anonymously is needed because there are people who make generalizations, wrong deductions, and make insults. If you are concerned about getting or keeping a job, you need to be anonymous.

    And if worked for our founding fathers, it should be fine now.

    I’m not sure why you feel the need to argue by casting aspersions.

  • Thomas Rooney

    Sadly, I didn’t lose a dog so you will have to try harder. Anonymity is cowardly and I only have disdain for hypocrites.

  • PrincetonResident

    The info about the dog is on the public site.

    You might not think you have any labels, but you seem to be fond about putting labels on others. You seem to have disdain for liberals, as you’ve published a number of attacks on them here on PP.

    And there’s nothing wrong about anonymity. Personally, I don’t want my opinions showing up in every Google search, as the comments here do.

  • Thomas Rooney

    Thinking you might work for PP was just a guess based on your having info that I lost a pet recently, not a personal attack. It is difficult to attack those who hide. Would you see being a tea-parties as being a problem? I don’t have any labels.

  • PrincetonResident

    Boy, are your guesses off! I guess if you can’t win on the merits of the argument, you need to start with the personal attacks or insinuations. No, I have no association with PP. I might ask if you are a tea-partier.

    The idea that “the outcomes of laws are the same for rich and poor” is laughable. All the evidence is that the rich get comparably easier treatment by the law as they can afford legal services.

    And again, despite your obsession with Ms. Perry, the original letter here is about changing the law, not about how she was treated.

  • PrincetonResident

    You seem to be obsessed with the Princeton professor. The point of the letter to the editor here is that we shouldn’t be issuing arrest warrants for very minor offenses. In particular, we should not be issuing contempt of court charges for not showing up in court for very minor offenses.

    The point of the letter is to change the current law, or its practice. It is not about whether the Princeton professor was treated the same as other people (she was). It’s about whether we should have this law in the first place. If there are lots of people getting arrested each week, that’s even more of a reason to change the law.

  • FreshAir

    What punishment system for an unpaid parking ticket costs the taxpayers more (in terms of administration, management, man/woman power, & time)? The current system as is? Or a system of financial repercussions for the offender? A financial repercussion system may do less damage to the wallet of innocent, law abiding taxpayers, while punishing those who fail to pay.

  • JD

    You do not (literally) get arrested for unpaid tickets. You get arrested for failing to appear in Court or settling your case. Parking tickets are summonses. You may pay or you may appear to argue your case. But you may not take no action twice without penalty.

    The only other way to deal with these things is to employ financial repercussions which, frankly, only end up punishing people of limited means and irritating people of greater means. The possibility of arrest is unpleasant, applies to everyone, and is still a more egalitarian way of handling such things. As applied, financial penalties are always far less so.

  • Thomas Rooney

    Perhaps in the little liberal utopia of ivied Princeton but many in the country are sick of the politically correct nonsense, including many on the Princeton campus.

  • PrincetonResident

    And says you. Given your other posts, the political trends are on my side.

  • Dave

    But the law is “public policy” and current. It can’t be ignored because one thinks it is bad. Change the law, then do as you like. Until then, follow the law….

  • Thomas Rooney

    I think “Princeton Resident” works for the Planet. The outcomes of laws are the same for rich and poor. I would guess Perry was earning decent money at PU, so why are we asking to change the law because of her reckless behavior?

  • Thomas Rooney

    If you read the local paper you would see that this happens many times every week, people have warrants. The issue here is this apparently intelligent person’s decision to ignore the law on many occasions. You don’t get arrested for tickets you get arrested for ignoring the court.

  • Thomas Rooney

    Says you.

  • PrincetonResident

    This discussion is about the law and if it is a good law. Regardless of what happened with Ms. Perry, the law appears to be a poor law and should be changed.

    I believe you are incorrect about the offenses mentioned here. The arrest does go on a permanent criminal record.

    I apologize for making an assumption about what you’ve experienced. I made that assumption as you asserted that the system works in Princeton and that statement is false as there we are enforcing a law that has very draconian outcomes for our poorest residents. I assumed that you must not have experienced this as I can’t fathom how anyone would advocate for a law that is unduly affects our less fortunate. Nevertheless, I shouldn’t have made that assumption.

    I disagree about the unpaid parking tickets and the summons regarding them being anything but a minor expense.

  • PrincetonResident

    I thought you were angry because using exclamation points and phrases like “Give me a break!” tend to indicate anger. They don’t encourage a climate of civilized discussion.

    The reason we are having this discussion is because fixing this issue would “really affect the people who live here” in Princeton. I ask you to listen to the people who have written about this and not simply dismiss it as rhetoric and wasted time.

    What this incident has highlighted is a bad law (or procedure) that should be corrected, in the eyes of some. I hope our elected officials change the law.

  • PrincetonResident

    The law can be good public policy and can be bad public policy. This thread is about changing the law because it is bad public policy.

  • Bob Schwartz

    The video shows the speeding was on Mercer Road northbound before the Stony Brook bridge, not through the battlefield, FWIW.

  • Robert Dana

    How could you possibly know what I’ve experienced? (I’m from the inner city and raised several minority teenage boys.)

    Normally, I don’t reply to people who hide behind anonymity – (Princeton Resident?) but your presumption is way out of line. And your position is patronizing.

    The system in Princeton didn’t always work. But here it did. Moreover, the “offenses” involving Dr. Esq. are not the type that go on a permanent criminal record.

    As noted by many commenters above, the underlying offenses are not trivial. And one needs to heed a court order. I imagine this woman who “cried wolf” will do so in the future.

  • Thomas Rooney

    I did not lose my dog! Not showing up for court is not a minor offense! I am not angry, I am concerned about why elected officials would waste time/effort on this issue, except to praise the Police, when they appear to have no power to fix things that really affect the people who live here.

  • Thomas Rooney

    It is not bad public policy it is the law and apparently she went to law school and should know better. I fully understand why she was arrested.

  • FreshAir

    There was a “zero-tolerance policy” in NJ before Guiliani… it was just call “policing” (ie. enforcement of polic-y) without the fancy name.

  • FreshAir

    Wonderful, Ms. Crumiller. Thank you for caring about the costs involved!!! Issuing notices & paying a service to boot the offending vehicle will be less expensive & a far more effective deterrent, than a stop, detention, & processing. Please also ask the PD to retrain officers in the proper positioning of their dash cams, so that all PD activity during a stop is recorded. Legal expenses (for internal & external complaints) & settlements related to PD activity have cost Princeton taxpayers an ENORMOUS amount over the years. Our PDs continued practice of going off-cam at traffic stops leaves us all open to complaints & is no longer acceptable. Complete filming of our officers excellent work, & public knowledge of this transparency will reduce complaints & cost. It’s great to see that someone on Council is concerned about efficient management & cost containment. Adding proper “risk management” to your concerns will make a huge difference on the bottom line for taxpayers!

  • FreshAir

    Hey Mike, The sentences above are my comment about the effect of parking policies & the law on every citizen who lives within our justice system. Every taxpayer joins violators in paying for the management & administration of that system. That makes us all shareholders. The Perry incident has shed a powerful light on areas that may warrant further examination, within that system. Realizing early on that Perry has come undone in some way & knowing she has a family here, I have zero interest in joining the vultures who keep swooping down, again & again, to pick on her carcass. Perry has now more than fully paid, for the misdeeds I see repeated here at 33RPM, like the scratched groove of a vinyl. It’s getting boring, & ugly. It would be healthier to elevate the conversation so all this energy makes a difference. In that spirit, I agree with Mr. Ofer’s intentions.

  • PrincetonResident

    This isn’t about the police. They did their job well.

    This is about the law and what good law is about. If we can change the law to make a better system, we should.

    I think you can say that “The system works in Princeton”because you haven’t been affected by this system. There are many people who have, and many are in a position where a criminal record has significant long-term consequences. Please consider the consequences for these people and if the punishment fits the crime.

  • PrincetonBorough

    I think people try to make progress on issues based upon the facts in that case. The Avalon Bay site issues shouldn’t affect how we deal with this issue and vice-versa.

    I don’t understand your anger here. You lost your dog this past week. Should we ignore your opinion on this issue because you were so irresponsible as to let your dog get free? that would be wrong. Similarly, why are you so determined that we shouldn’t look at the overall public policy issue of how we enforce minor offenses.

  • PrincetonResident

    How do you know? You are making an assumption without evidence. Protection against the government acting without evidence is one of the founding rights of our country.

  • PrincetonResident

    We have called the police about enforcing speeding traps. It has done little good.

    I don’t see why we can’t complain about people getting arrested if the reasons for the arrest are bad public policy.

    I know you are concerned about speeding, but that isn’t why she was arrested.

  • Thomas Rooney

    The municipality was unable to do anything about the VOCs pouring out of the Avalon Bay site, but we have to change policies to suit an out of town teacher who has no regard for this community. Give me a break!

  • Thomas Rooney

    Call the Police and they will set up some speed traps, but don’t complain when people get arrested.

  • Thomas Rooney

    They are escalating issues and it was her job to stop the escalation by paying the initial fine or showing up in court when requested to do so. I use Mercer St. As a running and cycling route all the time and have been close to being hit many times at the crosswalk. If I was hit at 67mph we would be having this discussion from the great beyond!

  • PrincetonResident

    Civil infractions should be dealt with by non-criminal means. It’s not that difficult. Other states handle it fine.

    I would ask you to consider the larger policy issue of how criminalizing non-criminal issues can have significant long-term consequences for people’s lives.

    Does anyone really want to deprive someone from getting a job 5 years down the road because of an unpaid parking ticket? That is the larger policy issue?

  • PrincetonBorough

    Must we argue about everything?

    There are pedestrians at the battlefield, but there are not as many pedestrians as on the tree streets. I’m in both areas everyday and this is an easily checked fact. In particular, there are many more small children in the tree street area. Cars driving 40 in a 20 mph zone in the tree streets is arguably as important an issue.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s a good use of taxpayer dollars to do speeds checks on Sunday mornings on relatively deserted streets, when there are dangerous situations going unpoliced every afternoon 4-5pm near the high school.

  • Robert Dana

    Hmm. Are you suggesting police officers spend a lot of time on these matters? Do these matters require them to work overtime? If not, then it’s part of their normal duties and subsumed under their salaries.

    Here, the police didn’t even know a scoff law was living among us until this woman sped by them. At that point they ran a check and brought her in. I don’t know that it took an inordinate amount of time.

    In any event, please spare the taxpayers a major study, which will no doubt require an outside consultant.

    We all know, or should know, to have a valid, up-to-date drivers’ license, insurance and proof thereof and to pay our tickets on a timely basis.

    Everyone is being treated fairly and humanely as evidenced by the Mother Teresa-like patience of the officer who handled Dr. Perry, Esq.

  • Jenny Crumiller

    Robert, besides being an issue of fairness and humanity, I see this about money as well. Our police officers are highly paid, as they should be. But do we want them spending their time dealing with warrants for minor offenses in this manner, if there is a less onerous way to deal with them? I don’t know the answer to this question but I would like to find out.

  • Mike

    She knew of the fines. She just chose to ignore them. She did not update her license because it was suspended. It was suspended because of the fines. And when you don’t pay your fines, a warrant is issued.

  • Mike

    The police were enforcing the law. They took great steps in handling this issue with the utmost respect. It was not until Perry came out all over social media stating it was racially motivated and how poorly the officers handled her. She was the one who risked credibility. When she didn’t pay the fines, when she was speeding, when she was driving on a suspended license. These were all risks that she took. She was not a victim. These were acts of someone who chose to ignore the law.

  • Mike

    What kind of example is she setting for the students. If you are confronted by the law, if you broke the law. That they should report it as racism. She went straight to social media about it. Her accounts were doing nothing but inciting racial differences. She even went so far as to post a “hanging tree”, on one of her accounts. She tried to suppress the video from being released. And called onto others to call the police to convince them not to release it.

  • Mike

    If you do not pay your fines, and make no arrangements to do so, prior to a warrant being issued. Then yes as any warrant issued, they will arrest you.

  • Mike

    She knew, that is why she had not updated her license. It is about personal responsibility. You only have so much time to get it updated when you move. Unless of course you know it is suspended.

  • Mike

    Did you miss the part where she was speeding? Or was it the part where she didn’t pay her fines and a warrant was placed for her arrest. At which point she willfully evaded the law. Or it could have even been the point where she was driving on a suspended license.

    What would you suggest for criminals who did not pay their fines? Should they just be allowed to get a slap on the wrist? Should they just deal with the constant calls from a bill collector? She broke several laws and trying to say she was arrested for just a speeding ticket, really shows that you are trying to come to her aid. But her case and her character have provided you with no stability. So you are calling this out as an issue with a speeding ticket.

  • Loving Princeton

    … And the ability to follow rules.

  • Loving Princeton

    Not true. The battlefield is a popular place for jogging and the sidewalks are regularly in use

  • Thomas Rooney

    Would she have such a fuss if the officers were black?

  • Thomas Rooney

    The initial offenses were low level, but not showing up in court and driving while suspended in an unregistered vehicle get you into big trouble. She is apparently an intelligent woman, but clearly lacks common sense.

  • Amal Thaon

    If Mz Perry had been a male, she would have been slammed up against the squad car, slung over the boot, shaken down, and dragged to out of the station to the courthouse, chained to a toilet in the middle of a public room with windows on the door so the whole world could look in. No sympathy, none, for a woman who parks in handicap zones, fire lanes, in loading docks, in walkways which blind people traverse,and then cries “rape” because she’s Chinese or whatever she is (I’m conveniently blind; all people are black to me). Sloppy parking does indeed endanger others ( not to mention speeding), not to mention drivers opening their doors into oncoming bicycle traffic!! The ‘endowed chair’ such arrogant overprivileged queens is a chair with an on-and-off switch. Follow your own rules, lady, or don’t vote!

  • PrincetonResident

    The not showing up at court is due to the unpaid parking tickets. So it’s not a separate issue.

    Personally I’m more upset that the princeton police don’t speeders in the tree streets than with ms. Perry’s speed as she was in an area without many pedestrians.

  • Bob Schwartz

    I still read it as carefully not claiming racial motivation in Perry’s arrest. Ofer even repeats in paragraph 9 — “The police in Princeton appear to have followed policies and procedures in arresting Professor Perry.”

    The next paragraph says, “NJ should change its policies and not issue arrest warrants for something as minor as two unpaid parking tickets.” Many commenters agree with this view, the focus of Ofer’s letter. There are other threads where we can rehash Perry’s mistakes.

  • Thomas Rooney

    Let her drive down your street at 67mph. She was arrested for not showing up in court, that’s what the warrant addressed. When will she apologize for her treatment of the Police Officers?

  • Princeton Fan

    Ha Ha you think that Ms. Perry is of no harm to the community? Driving with a suspended license and an unregistered vehicle is serious business. No doubt she was driving without insurance as well since she would not qualify for auto insurance; good luck if you are involved in an accident with her! In addition, driving 67 miles an hour on Mercer St. is no small potatoes. Her bench warrant was issued not due to a failure to pay fines but ignoring court appearances which would determine if her tickets were valid or not. Yes, what happened is shocking – that a person of her age and position would take no responsibility for her actions and then play the race card; yes, that is amazing! If she didn’t speed, had a valid license, registered her car, and paid her tickets she wouldn’t have had to deal with the consequences. I would hope that if I were ever stopped by the police that I would receive the same polite treatment as she did. Maybe in the future traffic tickets could be handled in another way but until the rules/laws change we are all subject to existing regulations no matter what group we belong to. Terrific if the ACLU would work on promoting change but Ms. Perry is not a sympathetic test case; instead, she is the type of driver that we all fear: the uninsured, unregistered, unlicensed driver who drives recklessly.

  • Robert Dana

    So we have to expend resources because an intelligent adult can’t seem to follow the rules? Not just one, but at least three – expired registration, no proof of insurance, multiple unpaid traffic tickets.

    Okay Ms. Crumiller. But, I hope such a study doesn’t increases expenses such that our taxes go up.

    We are three or so years post consolidation and promises of lower taxes due to economies of scale, cuts in duplicative services, etc. have not materialized.

    Please spend our money wisely and don’t spend it unnecessarily. Treat it like it I s your own (assuming, of course, you are not a spend thrift.)

  • John Heilner

    Well said and summarized, Councilwoman Crumiller. I will just add that I have worked on issues with Chief Sutter and his Department that impact people of color, and various ethnicities, and have always found our Chief and the officers I have worked with to be tremendously sensitive and thoughtful on these issues.

    This is not to say that we as a Town should not review policies and procedures relating to minor parking offenses. Some may be State mandated, some may be within our control as far as our own Municipal Court is concerned, and some involve a delicate balance between officer discretion when there is clearly no risk versus treating everyone the same. The latter is a particularly difficult question.

    I cannot think of a better Police Department and Town Council to take on and sort through these issues, than Princeton’s.

  • PrincetonResident

    There are several separate issues here. Regardless of how Dr. Perry or Princeton conducted themselves, there is the issue of should we be issuing arrest warrants for two unpaid parking tickets. That is the main part of Mr. Ofer’s letter. There seems to be better ways to collect the fines than filing criminal charges against people.

    Why should anyone have their lives majorly disrupted and possibly worse over a relatively small item? The assumption seems to be that people are scofflaws who are intentionally trying to cheat the system and they should be punished hard. I think reality, as confirmed by some of the stories in the letters below, show that tickets sometimes aren’t received and letters don’t always get delivered. There has to be a better way to handle this in today’s society. I ask our representatives to research if there is a way. Princeton could be a leader for the rest of New Jersey.

  • Elihu Smails

    Somebody going 67 mph in that area should be handcuffed and driven to the scrap yard to see their car crushed.

  • jimgibson

    Read the 4th paragraph. Tell me the juxtaposition of those two sentences doesn’t imply racial motivation in her arrest.

  • Bob Schwartz

    Ofer clearly isn’t saying Perry’s arrest was racially motivated (we agree it wasn’t). The letter is more general–about the effects of some of our policies re low-level offenses.

  • Aajaxx

    Does every municipality in NJ have the ability to treat these offenses differently? I’ve never heard of being arrested for such things as Perry was, although I have heard of having your car impounded and you find another way home.

  • NJgrub

    It was Ms Perry and her alone who made her experience a social media incident. Ms Perry is not the victim. It is the reputation of the Princeton Police Department and the two Princeton PD Officers that have become the victims. Her false accusations against the Princeton PD Officers could have resulted in collateral damage to their jobs and reputations had it not been for the dash cam video.

  • jimgibson

    Mr. Ofer continues with the insinuation that the arrest of Perry was racially motivated. It was not. And Dr. Perry stopped talking about the incident when it became clear that she was caught in a big fat lie. This article feels like a lame attempt to maintain Perry’s victim stance. Give it up.

  • Eduquest

    By the same token, let’s remember that Dr. Perry’s misrepresentation of the truth and continued refusal to back-down is a real thing that affects how others perceive charges of racism. She owes people of color with real grievances an apology as well.

  • Eduquest

    Dr. Perry had two three-year-old parking tickets that resulted in a warrant, a two-year-old unpaid ticket in another jurisdiction, an unresolved charge for driving an unregistered vehicle, and a suspended license. She had no registration or insurance information in her car. She also had a another warrant issued for her arrest in 2011 due to unpaid parking tickets. Yes, arresting people for parking tickets seems extreme to those of us who try to pay our tickets and keep our cars registered and inspected, and who live in fear that we might forget one; but Dr. Perry seems like the poster child for why the state decided to arrest people for unpaid parking tickets in the first place. So, thank you, Dr. Perry (and all you other extreme scofflaws), for making the world just a little less courteous for all of us.

  • Dave

    This is just the University trying to dampen the fact that one of their professors has no regard for the rule of law.

  • Douglas Rubin

    Well said Councilwoman Crumiller. Nicely balanced based on your views, experiences and the responsibilities you have taken on to run our town. Thank you.

  • Alexi Assmus

    I have an honest question for Mr. Ofer. I’d like to know what he thinks of the zero tolerance policy put in place by Guliani in NYC. I remember when I was growing up that NYC subways were not a place I wanted to be or could be safely on my own — I don’t feel this way now for myself or my children. The sense of safety on a public transport system has transformed NYC in my opinion — and is a benefit
    for everyone who rides the subway and enjoys that public scene. My understanding is that the police accomplished this by enforcing minor violations.

  • Sandra J. Bierman

    The laws have not being changed and until that happened people should be educated or should educate themselves on the fact that our behaviors carry consequences. Ms Perry reacted impulsively to say the least, she changed the facts, she made a false accusation of discrimination, wrote in numerous occasions that she did no wrong; si obviously for her, endangering others’ lives is not wrong, driving with a suspended license is not wrong, and using the race card out of emotion, completely ruins the conversation and leaves her with no credibility as a person and as a professor. The police, on the other hand, if they act out of discretion, might be liable and lose their jobs. Sorry, but she should not be driving, her disregard to the speed limit is outrageous. I assume that as of now, she is not driving as her license was suspended. She shouldn’t get her license back, she is oblivious of the law. We should all be treated equally and if the law requires an arrest, what we need is to know and act accordingly.

  • Bob Dablob

    Two years ago, I was pulled over in East Amwell for speeding, 42 in a 30 zone. Eventually, the officer advised me of my suspended license and an outstanding warrant. He did not know the reason for the warrant, but inquired if I had ever lived at a particular address. I had, almost 13 years previously. It turns out I had received a parking ticket, which I believe may have blown off the windshield. I do not recall ever receiving a follow up notice.

    Nevertheless, a process similar to that which Ms. Perry experienced was also followed here, though I was able to convince the officer to allow me to first drive my car the remaining mile to my home and park it before accompanying the officer, in handcuffs in the back of his patrol car, to his station for processing. I was released on bail several hours later…embarrassed, upset, angry. In large part, these feelings were directed at the police and DMV, but I also recognize owning a portion of the guilt myself.

    I spent several hours the following day dealing with first some phone calls and then being driven (by my wife, since the arresting officer physically took my license and told me not to drive until the situation was resolved) to the bank, the police station, traffic court and to DMV, to rectify the situation.

    I hold no ill will against the officer nor the procedures he was required to follow that evening. Each time I drive my the particular station where I spent a few hours, I am actually thankful for the coordinated efforts of our municipal and state police, and that they are willing to put their lives on the line for the rest of us each and every day.

  • PrincetonResident

    Does the municipality of Princeton, or its municipal court, have the discretion to not issue a warrant after two unpaid parking tickets? Is this a state issue or a local issue? People have asserted both in letters.

  • Scimommy

    Thank you for your comment. It is good to know that the Princeton police are aware of systemic bias and actively work to avoid it. I also wish the op-ed mentioned this, as this is directly relevant to this case and also because Princeton police deserve to be commended for it. My guess is that Prof. Perry did not know about this and thus did not say to herself “I am being arrested in Princeton, so I have nothing to worry about.” I am not excusing Prof. Perry’s speeding or unpaid parking tickets. What I am saying is that her somewhat hysterical reaction to her arrest/handcuffing/pat down is more understandable in the context of all the evidence that minorities are predominantly targeted by law enforcement for minor offenses. Again, NOT IN PRINCETON, fortunately, but nevertheless let’s remember that this is a real thing that affects how people of color perceive police actions.

  • Jacqueline L. Swain

    After all of the facts seem to have been ferreted out, I don’t think this could ever qualify as an ACLU matter. But I agree, that booting the car or towing it had the offense only have been an unpaid ticket might have gone a long way for the municipality to collect $130.00.

  • FreshAir

    We see both your love & your hate.

  • FreshAir

    Agreed. The point that these polices tend to victimize those in society who are already vulnerable & can ruin lives is noteworthy.

  • Jenny Crumiller

    Princeton Council member here but speaking only for myself. This op ed makes a lot of sense.

    But as a long time believer-in and supporter of the ACLU, this op ed was painful to read in its lack of recognition of the progress the Princeton police department has made against biased police practices and especially the department’s adoption of best practices as recommended by the ACLU-NJ.

    The Council and police department worked with ACLU-NJ when we were creating ordinances and policies for the newly consolidated department four years ago. Their recommendations did not include changing how warrants for minor violations are handled. If it had, we likely would not be in this situation because we otherwise took all their advice.

    The department makes public statistics showing police stops and use of force incidents by race and gender each month. Additionally, our chief has reduced discretion available to police officers for police procedures, which has been shown to be the single most effective method for reducing disparate treatment by race. (This is the reason Professor Perry was handcuffed, because if you let individual officers decide who needs handcuffs and who doesn’t, inevitably bias creeps in.)

    Going forward, I’m sure we will look into changing policies surrounding minor offenses and I’m sure we would welcome the help of ACLU-NJ. But unless new evidence emerges to change this picture, our police department could use some praise by the ACLU-NJ along with its advice.

  • Rich

    Let me say that it disturbs me that Perry does not come out and just apologize. She continues to defend her words and claims that certain parts are not what she meant. It is CLEAR that most took this as her saying that it was racially inspired and that she was profiled. She was not. So, at the very least, I would expect her to come out to say something like “if my words were taken in the wrong way and that I implied … then I humbly apologize”.

    Instead, she comes out to question the system and tries to ignore the fact that she made some very false claims.

    The fact that she has not apologized to the fine, professional work of these Princeton Police officers is just plain unacceptable and the longer that she does not apologize, continues to create disappointment with her behavior.

    The Princeton University president also can very easily separate these issues.

    On the issue of people being arrested for unpaid parking tickets – sure – but i still think you suspend the license and/or you put out a lien on the car. So, they’ll just go ahead and stop her for the speeding, find that her car should be impounded, and leave her on the side of the road. Lets do that…

  • Paulbud

    As usual, the comments below display far more wisdom and common sense than the article above.

  • BGZ123

    Three separate issues here:
    1. Of course people shouldn’t be arrested for unpaid parking tickets! This policy needs to be changed.
    2. This is not the fault of the police! They were following the law, doing what they were required to do. It is the policy that must be changed. The police acted entirely properly.
    3. None of this has anything to do with the controversy created by Professor Perry.

  • scollege

    1. Suspended License
    2. Could not produce Registration
    3. 67 in a 45
    4. Multiple Unpaid Parking Tickets for several Years

    How can the combination of all these be blamed on anything other than negligence?

    Many of us would be embarrassed if we failed any one of these items.

    I would generally agree that arresting someone for unpaid parking tickets seems extreme. But I don’t think you’re picking the best example here.

  • PrincetonResident

    Thank you Mr. Ofer for your very insightful letter. I hope our municipality and state will see the wisdom of using other mechanisms for enforcing low-level offenses.

  • Blue Lives Matter

    I support Princeton and all other Police! Not some entitled little brat who has most likely climbed her way up on other taxpayers dollars and grants, using her race for benefit.

  • Fsclcnsrvtv

    I’d rather get handcuffed and taken down to the station to pay my fine, than have a credit agency destroy my credit score, disrupting my life for many years to come. Fact is, Ms. perry humiliated herself. No one would have known about the arrest had she not used her race to try to destroy the police officers that carried out their duty that day. She should be charged with filing a false report.

  • Blake Cash

    So the system has worked fine for decades, but now that Ms. Perry was effected the entire system should be overhauled.

    Good to know where the power lies.

  • Anonymous

    While many of the points made in the Op-Ed are valid, Professor Perry is a terrible example for supporting these points. Working as a professor, she has without a doubt the means to pay her parking tickets. Her four unpaid parking tickets in Princeton alone suggests negligence not the broken system that the stories of others might exemplify. Additionally, she was pulled over for actively endangering other motorists on a suspended license, no less. Keep in mind that 67 MPH is more than any posted speed limit on any road in New Jersey. She was not sought after for her parking tickets and would not have been arrested for her warrant had she not been pulled over.

  • SFB

    I support Princeton police.

  • GH3™

    And let’s not forget, the good Professor was pulled over for speeding. She wasn’t plucked off the street by two undercover detectives while on a Sunday morning walk to the bagel shop.

  • GH3™

    I’d rather see a process where after 30 days or so you receive a letter reminding you that you have an unpaid parking ticket. Then maybe 30 days after that, a letter threatening to revoke your license – maybe in red lettering. Then 30 days after that, perhaps a letter of amnesty and praise for standing up to The Man.

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