Planet Princeton

Planet Princeton Sues Municipality for Records on Town-Gown Policing Agreement

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.

 

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.

  • krystalknapp

    The whole debate about warrants is a bit off topic for this post. One factual issue I would add is that even if Princeton stops issuing warrants for parking tickets, they would still be required to arrest people for warrants issued from other municipalities, which make up approx.90% of their warrant arrests.

  • PrincetonResident

    Dear Blake,

    I assure you that it didn’t take me much effort to answer your response. I would ask you to calm down. Maybe you aren’t angry, but you’ve made multiple personal attacks about me, based on no knowledge, and you’ve created a completely fictional world about what I believe.

    Let’s recap. In your initial comment, you disparaged the Princeton agencies involved as incompetent, because they couldn’t separate tactical issues from jurisdictional issues. You then made a factually wrong statement about the council. I corrected the comment, which is false (I note that you haven’t provided any evidence or argument about this), and you’ve taken umbrage that I corrected you. If you don’t care about accuracy, that’s all fine and good, but you should be consistent.

    You then disparaged me for making the factual correction, and then expressed annoyance when I responded to your subsequent comment.

    Now to your last comment. Despite your sarcasm, we all agree that we should maintain order in society. There are many ways to maintain order in society and many ways don’t involve issuing arrest warrants. We may disagree about whether these methods will work. You are unfortunately not the only adult who confuses disagreements about whether a method will work with a disagreement on the ultimate goal.

  • Blake Cash

    Since you went to what must have been incredible effort to respond, I will answer your statements, but I will not get into a prolonged discussion with someone who holds such an antisocial viewpoint.

    You answer my presumption. You do not “feel” warrants should exist. Once a defendant leaves custody, whether by release or after a finding of guilt, they have no obligation to the community. They are not required to pay fines or submit to incarceration. Fine. In your world there could be no bail or release on recognizance, as obligation ends with line of sight. Parking tickets could not be left on windshields, the vehicle owner would have to be detained until a fine is collected. Of course this path only applies if you see a need for statutes and regulations, no doubt in your mind they only apply to other people. Without consequences, there is no point in enforcement, without enforcement, there is no need for law.

    Maintaining order in a society is a complicated task, one obviously beyond the governing body, but you are the first adult (my assumption of your maturity) to suggest we just throw our hands in the air and give up.

  • PrincetonResident

    If by dancing, you mean accurately reading the law, I’ll keep dancing. Here are the specific answers to your assertions. I do realize that you aren’t interested in what the law says, but others might be:

    1. The letter from the governing body was incorrect. There is no state law requiring the municipality to issue the warrants. If there were such a law, the exact number and clause could be quoted. The letter does not refer to such a clause.

    2. “How do you enforce a warrant that is not issued?” You don’t enforce anything since there is no warrant. Since no warrant is issued, there is no reason to arrest anyone.

    3. If you believe the issuance of warrants is required by law, please list the specific number and clause that requires it. This clause does not exist.

    4. I have no idea what you mean by the “if I run away, I’m not guilty” defense. It seems to have nothing to do with the law says.

  • Blake Cash

    Nice dancing. I’ll skip the letter from the governing body asking the state to relieve officers of warrant responsibilities.

    A) How do you enforce something that is not issued?

    B) I’m fascinated by your interpretation that the issuance of warrants is not required by law. Fascinated, not interested. You present the “If I run away I’m not guilty” defense.

  • PrincetonResident

    Regarding warrants, no one ever suggested that warrants shouldn’t be enforced. The issue is whether they should be issued in the first place, as it is a practice not required by law.

  • FreshAir

    Yes…they do prefer we “shut up and sit down” Remember those taxpayers on Hamilton who got word that in a day or two they could no longer park on their street? You’re definitely supposed to be quiet, take harsh punishment (like : give up your car), and open your wallet here.

  • Blake Cash

    They subsidize a great deal of the squad, more than likely for that reason alone.

    You would never know were you to ever need the squad, their charges for transportation are ridiculous, and their collection techniques are underhanded and relentless.

  • I am curious to know if my constitutional rights could be violated based on who has jurisdiction. The University could discriminate and not be guilty of violating my rights simply because they are a private entity.

  • Billy Bones

    As a side bar, does the university contribute money to the first aid squad for the dozens of times a month they provide service to the campus? Especially for the intoxication calls for drunk over-privileged students?

  • Blake Cash

    Wow.

    I understand that as another party providing security, the university should be notified before providing information about policing, but tactical information was not requested.

    I would have to assume the agencies involved lack the competence to compartmentalize information, and therefore should not communicate with the public in any manner, including the enforcement of statutes and regulations. Who is to know if a given officer has any authority in a given situation? Taken in concert with council no longer wishing warrants be enforced, Princeton is without local law enforcement, and therefore without local laws.

    Of course anarchy would only be appropriate if we were actually supposed to interpret the actions of the governing bodies. It is far more likely they would prefer we “shut up and sit down,” as they appear to prefer treating citizens as their children while they fulfill the role of abusive parents.

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