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