Planet Princeton is the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in Mercer County Superior Court on Tuesday seeking the policing agreement between the town of Princeton and Princeton University.
On Feb. 10, Planet Princeton filed a request under the state’s Open Public Records Act and common law seeking the town’s police operating agreement with the school in order to find out which police department has jurisdiction over which areas in the town. The operating agreement was approved in 2013. It is not clear if it has been amended or how many times it has been amended. Planet Princeton is also seeking all amendments to the agreement.
On Feb. 12, after consulting lawyers from Princeton University , the town denied Planet Princeton’s public records request.
The town denied the entire request, claiming an exception under OPRA that exempts from public access security measures and surveillance techniques that would create a a risk to the safety of people, property, electronic data or software.
Attached to the denial was a 2013 letter from the prosecutor’s office regarding the 2013 operating agreement.
“(The) release of detailed information regarding police response to service calls, including primary responsibility data and coverage maps, would create a risk to the safety of persons and property in the Princeton area,” reads the letter from the prosecutor. “Law enforcement agencies have a substantial interest in keeping secure the emergency response procedures for both the local police personnel and university police. The information that is requested could contain tactical response details that are not subject to public disclosure.”
The prosecutor’s office also claimed the agreement is not a government record under state law.
Planet Princeton contends that the agreement is a public record and that citizens in the town have a right to know who has policing jurisdiction where and over what issues in the town and on campus. Any sensitive information over tactical responses details or emergency response procedures could simply be redacted from the document.
Walter Luers, a Clinton-based lawyer who specializes in public records cases, is representing Planet Princeton. Luers is the head of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government.
Leuers represented a New Brunswick journalist in a similar case regarding the city of New Brunswick an Rutgers University and policing jurisdiction. The records in that case were turned over before the case went to court.
One judge hears OPRA cases in each county court. In Mercer County, Judge Mary Jacobson is the judge for OPRA cases.