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Councilwoman Challenges Princeton University President on His Response To Professor’s Arrest

Eisgruber Princeton council

Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller told Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber Wednesday night during a town-and-gown meeting that she wanted to discuss some unfinished business regarding the arrest of a professor last winter.

“When Professor Perry was arrested, you refused to acknowledge after an investigation that police followed procedures and were blameless,” Crumiller said.

She was referring to the February arrest of Princeton University Professor Imani Perry, who was pulled over for driving 22 miles over the speed limit on Mercer Street near the intersection of Quaker Road. Perry had two outstanding court warrants for parking tickets and a suspended Pennsylvania driver’s license. She was arrested and taken to the police department, where one hand was handcuffed to a rail at the processing window. Perry, who is black, criticized the police on social media, detailing how she was patted down by a male officer, was not allowed to make a call while on Mercer Street to let someone know where she was, was handcuffed, and was taken to the police station, where she said she was handcuffed to a table while she was processed.

Eisgruber issued a statement after the incident calling for an investigation. “Many on our campus and around the country have expressed understandable concern about the arrest this past weekend of Professor Imani Perry, who is a respected scholar and beloved teacher at this University,” he wrote at the time. “They have been shocked that such an arrest could result from unpaid parking tickets. They have also been distressed about specific aspects of the arrest, including the fact that a pat-down was performed by a male officer and that Professor Perry was handcuffed to a desk after her arrest.”

After an investigation revealed that the officer followed proper protocol and a video of the incident was released, Eisgruber did not release any new public statements on the incident or the investigation. Some residents thought at the time that he should apologize or publicly acknowledge that the police did nothing wrong.

On Wednesday night Eisgruber said he respects the Princeton police chief, but said he has heard people at Princeton and around the country talk about disparate treatment by police based on race and said he disagrees with the practice of taking unpaid parking tickets and turning them into warrants.

“We have to have rules, but whether that is the right rule, and then handcuffing everyone to a chair,” Eisgruber said. “I respect the way the chief runs his department, and the way he carried out duties in that case, but I also respect the pain our professor went through and the reactions she had…It was important under the circumstances we faced and the students who were thinking about it — this professor is genuinely beloved by them – to recognize the experience she went through and the experiences they went through. What I spoke about was my sympathy for Professor Perry.”

Crumiller was not satisfied with Eisgruber’s response. “You’re not really addressing my issue,” she said. “At the time it would have been helpful, especially with what happened and then all the racists who started using the story for their own purposes, for you to acknowledge…I don’t think you ever acknowledged after that our police were following good procedures. You never acknowledged our efforts.”

Crumiller said the town has made efforts to review police data on police stops and other issue and make records public. She added that the police must treat all people equally when executing warrants to guarantee equal treatment. Having officers make judgment calls as to whether or not to handcuff or search someone who is arrested could lead to disparate treatment. The municipality does not have discretion in executing a warrant issued by a judge in the state.

Eisgruber said the investigation showed police followed proper procedure, but said Perry’s issue was with the body search and handcuffing for outstanding parking tickets. He said the incident had to be seen in the context of police stops across the nation.

“Faculty and students were also coming to me talking about incidents in Princeton where they were pulled over and treated inappropriately,” Eisgruber said. “I know the chief and council have made efforts to improve the way people are treated, but when I’m talking to a community I had responsibility listening to what is said by those people in pain. At no point did I say what the Princeton Police did was wrong. I said in one email that I had complete respect for what the police did.”

Councilwoman Jo Butler said she thought a public response would have been appropriate at the time given Eisgruber’s public statement after the incident. “You privately sent an email many people were copied on, but it felt like it should be something public,” she said.

Mayor Liz Lempert said the incident was painful for the community and people complain every week about speeding on the stretch of road where Perry was pulled over for speeding.

Councilwoman Heather Howard said the town would like to purchase body cameras for the police, but it would cost more than $200,000. Eisgruber said the university could possibly support a proposal to fund the purchase of body cameras, though he added that there are pros and cons to using them.

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.

  • Thomas Rooney

    You initially mentioned impounding vehicles which would create major issues if the car is owned by someone else or the bank. You lose all credibility when you refer to a legal search in terms of sexism and misogyny. What if the male officer was gay or identifies as a female? What if the female officer at the scene was gay or identifies as a male?

  • FreshAir

    Officers have the authority to take charge of/secure any vehicle involved in a moving violation, once it’s determined (or suspected) that its driver has violated the law. That happens whether the driver owns the car or not. That protects innocent drivers on the roadway, or innocent passengers in the vehicle itself, from unlicensed or reckless drivers. That makes sense. The police also could have booted or towed a car owned by Perry anytime, for failure to pay all the fines that led to her license revocation, without a physical confrontation. She would have had to go to the court to pay fines, & prove she had a license, before getting her car back. It;s good that they made Perry get out of her car, but the way she was patted down wasn’t OK. Taxpayers have paid big settlements for sexism/misogyny in our PD. If you have deep pockets, your tax bill increasing for debt service may not bother you, but not everyone living here has that luxury.

  • Thomas Rooney

    What happens if the driver doesn’t own the car?

  • FreshAir

    Please tell all that to my wallet… ’cause it’s a wallet carried by a law-abiding citizen paying debt service for six-figure PD settlements. Then, review the conditions under which cars are impounded. That solution places the burden on the wallet of violators, not on the entire community.

  • Thomas Rooney

    The policy was put in place after much research to protect the public and the PD. Everyone is treated the same way, even Princeton professors. The shame is that certain members of the community, including Eisgruber felt that a professor should be treated differently. Obey the law and you won’t have a problem.

  • FreshAir

    In the opinion of many folks here, “Princeton PD has gone above and beyond what’s required” with it’s blanket handcuffing policy. It’s Draconian that Council applauds escalating parking ticket matters to physical pat down, handcuffing, detention, & arrest. Such matters should be handled with summonses to municipal court & fines. Impound the car if someone is driving without a license because of unpaid parking tickets & let them call UBER please. Anything more subjects our town to bad vibes & taxpayers to potential lawsuits. Please don’t believe that handcuffing & escalating all matters to detention & arrest is “required to remain fair…”. That’s a huge bunch of nonsense. We politely accept things like handcuffing because the system forces us to do so… not because it represents progressive, modern beliefs, or what the majority wants. It is neither good or bad to be morally tested this way. But the truth remains that when your own son or daughter is stopped by our PD, you want the officers to do no harm, respect human dignity, & be reasonable.

  • Sandra J. Bierman

    Ms Perry was speeding and she was stopped for that, as it should be. Of course, protocol requires to run the driver’s license in the computer which works 2 ways, if one is a first offender, the police might issue a warning and dismiss the ticket; however, if one is driving with a suspended license, of course, police has to check further. The reality is that Ms Perry caused all this on her for lack of respect to the speed limit which endangers other people’s lives…then, she was traumatized by the handcuffs and went on publicly with a letter and her version of the facts. So, again, she made the incident public and the president of the university sided with her before fact checking. It seems to me that Ms Perry lives in her own bubble and the interesting thing would have been learning how involved PU president would have been if the incident protagonist was a janitor and not a professor. Apologizing publicly would have been the right thing to do but because he still doesn’t do it, it makes him look like an arrogant jerk.

  • Thomas Rooney

    If you read Jenny Crumiller’s piece you will see that Princeton PD has gone above and beyond what is required to remain fair to all citizens. Eisgruber should have waited for the facts before unleashing his tremendous influence on something of which he had only one sided knowledge. When he found out the facts he should have terminated the Professor and apologized to the Police and the people of Princeton.

  • FreshAir

    There was a time when our Princeton Borough PD, consistently treated people very very poorly, & never once apologized. Some on the PD did heinous things. Such behavior went unchecked, escalated, hurt a lot of people who live here or were traveling through, & cost townspeople a lot in legal settlements. The huge costs to taxpayers for settlements & emotions of those times were a burden on us all. No one I know, who lived through those times, wants to return to days when law enforcement professionalism can’t be openly, respectfully, productively discussed. Those folks aren’t police haters… in fact, many of them felt hated BY police for no actual reason except maybe place of origin or appearance. Some of them have beloved PD staff in their own families. All feel better about the increased awareness that local & national discussion has produced within our own PD, because frankly, awareness was needed. In the Perry case, the very verbally polite officer (yes!, he was terrific!!! ) didn’t rely on the female officer present. Lack of discussion about that, may indicate a lack of regard for propriety & sexism still exists in our PD & is supported by municipal leaders. If that’s the case, there’s reason for concern. No one feels the male officer wasn’t verbally polite. Many are relieved by the kinder, gentler, smarter PD that now exists in Princeton. There’s no question, things have improved & are on the upswing. Let’s keep them heading that way!

  • Robert Dana

    I appreciate your enthusiasm Ms. Marcano. But a few points of clarification.

    First, the University is a not-for-profit organization. As such, it is, generally speaking, not subject to federal, state and or local taxes.

    Second, the University is a private entity. The President is selected by its Board of Trustees. We, as citizens of Princeton, have no say whatsoever as to whom the Board chooses as its President.

    Having said that the University receives tremendous benefits from the town and it is incumbent upon it to act in an ethical and moral fashion.

    On the matter of Professor Perry, it had not.

  • Thomas Rooney

    Thank you Jenny

  • Thomas Rooney

    Princeton is progressive as long as you are not a Police officer or a white Christian, gun owning, pro life conservative.

  • Thomas Rooney

    If you view the video you will see that the Professor was treated very kindly. The Police officers were treated very poorly by Eisgruber and other Police haters at PU.

  • Cecie

    Instead of ranting, you could look it up. You can obviously find your way onto a comments page; now do what any second-grader can and enter Eisgruber’s name in Google or Wikipedia. Once you have the basic facts, feel free to make observations…but not in ignorance. Wastes everyone’s time.

  • FreshAir

    Yes, there is genuine reason for concern about many institutional positions, institutional policies, & municipal actions that affect everyone living in Princeton, those visiting, & those just hoping to pass through happily. On this we agree.

    But, let me be clear that I don’t believe & never stated that Perry was innocent of violating the law. She was speeding & ignored fines.

    While not entirely sure why town gown affairs are so miserable in Princeton, I do see many facets in the root cause. Productive discussion may change some inequities over time. Honesty helps in dialogue & is far more productive than grand-standing.

    As far as records being sealed, i’s my personal opinion that there’s far too much violation of dignity & privacy. So, we will never agree that every detail of crimes or inquiries involving minors or innocents be shared with the general public. All people, regardless of race, gender, or circumstance deserve respect. Everyone should be treated with dignity & basic courtesies.

  • Cara Marcano

    A man like ElitistEisgruber does not apologize… Unless you threaten his big secure salary etc. Charge him for not apologizing … or ask the University to suspend him without pay until he can apologize publicly… Don’t make excuses for this. A real man knows how to apologize. This is part of the problem. A man like this in charge of our supposedly greatest University – no wonder our children and our society gets lost. Fire him Princeton until he can apologize properly…. make him miss that big fat $5xx,000 salary… I bet he could b made to apologize …

  • Cara Marcano

    An Elitist like this guy Elitist Eisenburg only understand their money and prestige… make the University pay for all the taxes and things they are currently cheating on.. that will humble him right to where he needs to be… also maybe make him donate some of his $5xx,xxx salary to do something good in our town…

  • Cara Marcano

    THE UNIVERSITY IS THE PROBLEM. Great work Jenny ! Get the University to start paying its fair share. Y ou have in the town government given them way way too much power and you have allowed them to do whatever they want. Reel them in. Their rape of the town has got to stop.

  • Cara Marcano

    Guys please take a look at your leftism… don’t issue a warrant fine.. but she had a LOT of unpaid parking tickets, she is loaded and has a great job and benefits and salary and she was speeding… She is not the poster child for discriminatory policing… she is playing a form of identity politics that is only for the rich and Princeton – which is not the politics the town or the country need right now. Lots of hard-working, law-abiding blacks and Latinos who are NOT Princeton U employees and who do NOT break the law get pulled over and harassed by Police. Frankly lots of Latinos get harassed entering our public swimming pool so let’s focus… This woman and Princeton are currently above the law in our town and it is out of hand.

  • Cara Marcano

    Why didn’t she just pay her parking tickets if she is a Princeton U professor. Isn’t following the law part of being a professor… showing our kids that you have to follow the law.

  • Cara Marcano

    Elitist Eisgruber…. let’s give him a nickname.. He is a piece of work and a half… Get him to pay for being such an axx….

  • Cara Marcano

    I’m not comfortable with the way the University doesn’t allow our daughters to be protected from rape on college campuses by not allowing police onto campus or any police reports to be filed about any crime committed on campus…

  • Cara Marcano

    Moreover non-Princeton U employees who are black are regularly harassed for driving through Princeton for being black. Those are the folks who need to be defended and advocated for not this Professor and even lessso Crooked Elitist Eisgruber- Regularly we see our police stop blacks and Latinos for no good reason and have experienced this as blacks and Latinos in the town while our mayor and ridiculous people wave signs saying how diverse and open minded our town is… we are allegedly getting a civil rights board no? to protect the rights of all the hard-working blacks and Latinos who follow the law and are not above it one can only hope – to defend and protect those who are not Princeton U administrators or employees – we don’t need to protect the Civil Rights of folks who are lying cheating stealing and defend the University even when it breaks the law.

  • Cara Marcano

    She broke the law. She because she was a professor at Princeton felt she was above paying her tickets – she like Princeton – is constantly told she does not have to follow the rules because she is a Princeton University employee. She lied to the police and to law enforcment which is probably a crime but since she is part of the Princeton University “community” which is of course separate and above the Princeton real “community” of taxpayersr and residents who own property and pay taxes on it and their wages in Princeton -the other Princeton – she faces no consequences and Eisengruber feels completely in his right to publicly defend her. When will we get rule of law and democracy here in Princeton? The mafia of the University and the mayor has got to stop.
    The rest of us who live in the town we have to follow the rules, but not anyone married to a professor (our mayor) or working for the University. Those folks only have to deal with the private, Princeton-owned security forces and should never be arrested by the police even when they break the law? I would love to know where Eisgruber got educated and where he learned how to break the law and encourage his employees to break the law like this. She -the professor – was driving her car illegally. She was legally arrested. Why does Princeton think it and all of its employees are above the police. Why aren’t the local police allowed onto the campus to track the drunken rape of our country’s college-age women by real police not some private security force hired by the University? Why are all the police records related to anyone who is an employee at the University sealed and unavailable to the public? What goes on that the University has so much trouble with the police and is unwilling to pay taxes to fund our police – and yet feels more than comfortable using them to police boat races for the very very very rich on Carnegie lake.

  • Cara Marcano

    Who writes President Christopher Eisgruber ‘s statements? Most of what he says and is quoted as saying is unbelievable. Last week he was quoted in the Town Topics saying that the University should not have to pay any taxes on any land or profit it makes or pay any money into sending students of professors to our public schools just because it is Princeton and we in the town should be so grateful to live in the armpit of Princeton University. Who is he and how did he come to exist in his own bubble where he collects a huge salary to be above the law, above the police and above paying taxes ? Who is this guy and where did he come from and can we send him back? If not can we get him to please pay his and the University’s fair share and please get another person to help him with his statements….

  • FreshAir

    one would think they would be treated like other unpaid bills. the application of expensive PD time seems wasteful.

  • FreshAir

    Thank you very much for the progressive action taken by Council thusfar. Thank you for continuing to work on policies. Thank you for your openness. Honest dialogue is actually what will “go a long way” toward making things right… so it’s great for everyone in our community that you have reopened the opportunity to dialogue on this.

  • betterwould

    Yes. So his first instinct is to stand by his faculty member, OK. But when crucial reality is brought to light, for Eisgruber to hide behind his first instinct as if it precludes additional, responsible integrity-based action is craven behavior. And the latter is no way to improve race and/or town/gown relationships.

  • FreshAir

    Princeton University is known for contributing less to the surrounding community than any other Ivy. I wish PU would rightly share resources to reduce our school taxes & the other demands on Princeton, because the enormity of these burdens are severely hurting many in this community. But, to be fair, in this one town/gown matter, Eisgruber may be correct.
    There was a working, wide-angle dash cam on the police car. Somehow the subject of the arrest was inappropriately taken off cam. The pat down was performed by the male officer, on the female under arrest. The male officer didn’t engage the female officer present for that task. Parking violations involve no direct physical threat. Parking violation fees are arbitrary & assessed on roadways that tax payers are funding. The severity of parking offenses to society are therefore debatable. For these reasons & others, handcuffing a calm, cooperative resident for failing to pay Princeton parking tickets is excessive.
    Eisgruber has simply noted portions of Perry’s arrest that were inappropriate. He honestly shares that other concerns regarding PD activities have occurred beyond this incident. His sharing is unpopular, but, possibly correct on topic.
    The handcuffing protocols need revision. Placing a cooperative person in handcuffs in a moving vehicle for transport poses injury hazards that must be admitted & discussed. Sexism in professional interactions has to stop. Women shouldn’t be so subject to intimidation by male figures in authority that they are forced to remain silent (or feel it better to be inappropriately supportive or blind to it). There isn’t one reasonable parent with a daughter in this town, or one husband who loves his wife in this town, that is comfortable with the way that pat down was done.

  • Robert Dana

    CW Crumiller, an apology, which you, I & others think is appropriate, is probably not easy for President Eisgruber to muster what with the crazy environment on campus these days.

    Look at what happened on other campuses in the wake of the Presidential election. Some professors cancelled mid-terms because students were grieving over the results. Cancelled. Not postponed. Companion dogs were brought in at one college to provide comfort.

    President Eisgruber must navigate difficult political waters. Recall that just last year, the students took over his office in connection with the Woodrow Wilson matter.

    Nevertheless, it’s important for Mr. Eisgruber to man up – err person up — and have a profiles in courage moment.

  • Jenny Crumiller

    PrincetonResident, thank you for writing your comment with concrete suggestions. While our town is struggling with these issues, we’ve only heard criticism from the University after Ms. Perry was arrested and it was not constructive but destructive. From a practical standpoint, you’ve done more to address the problem of disparate treatment in policing in Princeton than the University has. While it holds conferences and forums on policing, it has never worked with the town on police issues other than those matters that affect its own well-being.

    The Mayor and Council have taken some progressive action. No other town in New Jersey makes public statistics on use of force and police stops by race voluntarily like we do (some have court orders to do it). Our chief has incorporated research that says the best way to reduce disparate treatment is to reduce officer discretion in arrest procedures, which is why Ms. Perry was handcuffed. We’ve made diversity a priority in hiring for our police force. We’ve worked with the ACLU and Rutgers on police practices. We will continue to press for improvements including ones you suggest.

    But even while we continue to work on policies, the University has not been a partner. A partner would not refuse to utter the words that the police officer was not to blame in the professor Perry incident. If he cares at all about community relations, President Eisgruber needs to realize that it’s hard to let go of such an unfair insult. A sincere apology would go a long way toward making things right.

  • PrincetonResident

    The town could choose to not issue warrants for unpaid parking tickets. That is an action it could take. State law does not require warrants to be issued.

    The town could also cease running everyone’s license plates through their computer system. Such a policy “discovers” everyone, who may have done nothing wrong while in Princeton, with such a warrant. Then the system is pulled into action.

    These are all actions that the town could take. Given the severe penalties that these warrants can cause to our most disadvantaged, the town should change its procedures if it wanted to take a progressive action.

  • Justin

    They have to enforce warrants, its not a choice. Its not the town council’s choice either. What you suggest is a magic wand. Progressive policy should reform things within their realistic limitations. Successful reform will come with realistic focus and not generalizations that cannot be practically implemented. Especially with opposition leadership, progressives need to create practical solutions. Focus on the individuals instead of lumping them together as the poor “others”. This is not just an exercise to say you help the underprivileged with a grand proposal. If you care you will get involved with serving the individual.

    Idea off the top of my head: Implement a help line for folks who can’t pay their tickets. Forward them $40 and hold them to a payment plan so they don’t get a warrant from police. Connect this to other social institutions so people are pressured by their peers and families to pay back the loan. Educate everyone about their responsibilities if they get a violation, and educate them on their options if they are out of money to pay.

  • Robert Dana

    Thank you, Ms. Crumiller.

    President Eisgruber has a selective memory. It was clear that the Professor misrepresented her treatment by the police. Soon after, Mr. Eisgruber supported his employee’s version and condemned the police department.

    When the facts demonstrated that the Professor exaggerated her treatment, Mr. Eisgruber said nothing to clear up his prior rush to judgment.

    Even worse, his response to the Council last evening appears to have been . . . well, if it didn’t happen exactly as the Professor said, police are racists throughout the country, so I’m not apologizing. What a small man!

    Another victory for social justice over individual justice. Meanwhile the two officers involved in the incident continue to be disrespected.

    I hope Mr. Eisgruber is never treated unfairly based upon what someone like him does some place else.

  • PrincetonResident

    It’s great that the council wants to revisit this question. The town should not be enforcing warrants for unpaid parking tickets nor should it be issuing warrants for it. There are studies showing the disastrous effect such policies have on our most disadvantaged citizens. What some may think is a minor issue can become a life defining event for others. Princeton prides itself on being a progressive town. The council should revise its procedures and adopt a progressive policies.

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