Princeton Governing Body Issues Statement About Perry Incident

The following statement was issued by the governing body of the town of Princeton today regarding the arrest of Princeton University Professor Imani Perry on Feb. 6 for an outstanding court warrant after Perry was pulled over for speeding.

During the incident, the officer discovered that Perry’s license was suspended in Pa., she could not provide the officer with her car registration, and she had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court for two unpaid parking tickets in Princeton. Perry generated a backlash against the Princeton Police Department when she described via social media how a male office conducted a body search and she was handcuffed to a table at the police station. After reviewing a video of the incident and other evidence, the Mercer County Prosecutor yesterday closed the case. Perry canceled an appointment with the prosecutor and never followed up after making the accusations.

The Princeton governing body calls on the state to change the warrant system in New Jersey so warrants aren’t issued for failure to appear in court for outstanding parking tickets. The full statement, signed by all of the members of the governing body except Councilman Patrick Simon:

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office has concluded their independent review of the traffic stop and arrest of Princeton Professor Imani Perry, and has found that the arresting officers were “to be commended, not criticized.” We are proud of the professional, compassionate conduct of our police officers, and we are grateful for the work they do to keep our community safe.

This incident has been painful to all involved. Accusations of misconduct against our officers were published widely in the national media, followed by a rush to condemn.

The dash camera video and audio recording of the incident proved essential to clearing their names. As part of our commitment to transparency, the municipality hopes to purchase body cameras for all of our officers and integrate that technology with our existing dash cameras. We are working to identify funding, especially for the expensive storage technology required, and to develop a policy to address privacy concerns.

Our officers acted appropriately. Still, we believe the incident raised legitimate questions about the New Jersey court system’s use of warrants. We hope the state will reexamine the options it gives to municipal courts to enforce financial penalties and parking violations, and we plan to be part of those conversations with our elected state representatives.

We hope that this incident ultimately helps bring attention to some of the great work our police have undertaken in recent years to strengthen relationships, including diversified recruitment and hiring, adoption of a strategic plan which relied heavily on community consultation, and the creation of a Safe Neighborhoods Bureau which focuses extensively on community policing.

Since 2013, the Chief has been posting a comprehensive monthly report of police activity on the municipal website that includes statistics of motor vehicle stops by race and gender. We believe Princeton may be the only community of its size in the state of New Jersey to publish this information voluntarily. Furthermore, as part of the 2014 accreditation of the department, the Chief has standardized procedures, reducing discretion available to individual officers.  Academic research demonstrates that minimizing discretion also minimizes disparate treatment by race. Each warrant arrest is subject to the same security protocols, including a weapons search and handcuffing, regardless of the person’s race, gender, or job title.

We are all members of the same community–one based on shared values of fairness and respect. The police and the governing body of Princeton have been, and continue to be, committed to providing fair policing to our residents and visitors. We are proud to have a department that is constantly striving to improve the way it serves and protects all members of our community.

Mayor Liz Lempert
Council President Lance Liverman
Councilwoman Jo Butler
Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller
Councilwoman Heather Howard
Councilman Bernie Miller


  1. Now the governing body needs to demand a public apology from President Eisgruber. Ms. Perry for her incitement comments, and all the Perry supporters who rushed to add fuel to the unfortunate fire Ms. Perry ignited.

    1. No repercussions in Princeton, we no longer need to pay our tickets or even be legal immigrants. I’m sure they’re burning the township statutes.

  2. I’d like to hear what the governing is proposing in lieu of issuing warrants for people who fail to appear to pay their fines. Councilman Simon, in my opinion, is a very thoughtful individual. I’d like to know if he was absent when the statement was issued or if he chose not to sign along with his colleagues; if that is the case, I’d like to hear his reason(s) for not signing. And I’d like to hear what Chief Sutter thinks about the issue and can opine as to how it might work if warrants weren’t issued when someone fails to appear.

  3. Ordinary people arrested every week for bench warrants ——> silence.
    Princeton Professor arrested for bench warrant ——> “Change the law!!!”

  4. Painful for all involved? Is that like everyone being awarded a participation trophy?

    Surely, one must distinguish between (i) those doing their jobs in accordance with protocol, (ii) one publishing false claims bordering on defamation and (iii) her colleagues — including the leader of one of the world’s most prestigious universities — piling on without even taking the time to find out the facts.

    I don’t see equivalence here. It’s too bad your report doesn’t have its employees’ backs.

    1. Absolutely. Note that Patrick Simon did not sign. What a loss for the council that he is not seeking reelection and what a loss for the town that he decided not to run for mayor.

    2. How do the signatories not have their employees’ backs? Did we read the same letter?

      It seems you are conflating the issue of warrants for minor offenses and Perry’s behavior. Council seems rather happy with the performance of the department; less so with state policy. (And this policy is a problem for a lot of people who are very much not like Imani Perry.)

      Imani Perry is *not* the victim and the issue the council is trying to address has nothing to with her other than the fact it came (barely) to light among all the other ridiculousness.

      1. Yes. We read the same letter wise guy. I am not “conflating” [your fancy word] anything.

        The police were commended by the politicians. No doubt.

        However, they should have gone a step further and admonished Professor Perry and the University (including its President); for false reporting bordering on defamation and a rush to judgment, respectively.

        An apology should have been requested, politely.

  5. Pathetic cowardly nonsense from people who are more concerned with people behaving illegally and those here illegally than the law abiding citizens.

  6. The next time you wonder how anybody could vote for Donald Trump–and Lord knows, I do–consider this incident and, in particular, this politically correct crock of a response from our town’s elected “leadership.” People, quite frankly, are reaching their limits with this garbage. Ironically, the left bears more responsibility for the rise of The Donald than does the right.

    1. Fear, anger, & ignorance are responsible for Donald’s rise. If he takes advice from Melania we may be OK, because she can read. : ) I don’t know what’s responsible for the continual “pride” some municipal leaders spew. It’s an election year, so we’re surely gonna hear more about their many great accomplishments. I’d really prefer leaders who are smart, honest, and resourceful.

  7. If the existing dash camera video and audio system was sufficient enough to clear the police officers of wrongdoing, why do we need to spend taxpayer money on additional body cameras for police?

    1. The existing dash cams and audio systems we have can record every detail of every traffic stop TODAY. Our officer simply have to stop filming the opposite side of road and scenery across the street from where they’re working. Lots of pretty pictures without the people talking in them, isn’t a proper record. The discussion of body cam cost & “privacy’ is yet another big smoke screen our municipal leaders are fanning. The fire from that smoke comes from our intense Princeton pride, so often referenced here. How much hot air can our town support before those who aren’t spewing it choke? Taking people off cam is a tactic is used by our PD when someone may be strong armed… note the word “may” and how proud I am of the advances made by Chief Sutter. But, privileged male caucasians get lots of “privacy” to do what they want in our society…and that privacy is hard for him to part with. Princeton’s minorities & non-caucasians will benefit from full taping of all stops, because they will be processed under the eye of the camera that offers protection. It’s important to note that at least half of the video showing poor policing in the US comes from bystanders, making the police department a questionable source for advice on how to obtain a proper record of every arrest. Let’s see if our Officers can properly use the equipment they already have before buying them new toys.

      1. You’re bizarrely obsessed with this dash cam thing, and appear determined to cast aspersions on the police by hinting darkly at some unspecified, quite possibly notional, history of curbside abuse. Either be specific or drop the subject, please.

        Also, FYI, unless you’re in the UK, your commas and periods go inside your quotation marks.

        1. Let me be clear that I feel Officers serving Princeton today are the best force we’ve had in decades. Rather than cast aspersions on them, let me also share that full recordings will also protect those Officers from false allegations and preserve a record of their professionalism on duty. I feel it best for Princeton that our leaders move forward without missteps, which is why I share suggestions for a need to use the equipment taxpayers have provided properly. I also feel it best to focus on the future. In the past there has been curbside abuse, profiling, complaints about misconduct, and complaints of sexism lodged against our police force. To settle some of these matters, Princeton taxpayers have paid out large amount of money in judgements and settlements. Some complaints are unresolved with no decision. Anyone who is interested in this aspect of our town history can find the news reports that exist, for a history no one wants to discuss.

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