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Vol. LXIII, No. 7
 
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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Borough Council Called Upon to Define Its Police Department Oversight Role

ROGER MARTINDELL
Prospect Avenue
Member, Princeton Borough Council

More Than a Building Would Be Lost if Valley Road School Were Destroyed

CELIA TAZELAAR
Laurel Road


Borough Council Called Upon to Define Its Police Department Oversight Role

To the Editor:

Recent public disclosure of the Princeton Borough Police Department’s internal affairs logs shows a steep increase in misconduct charges against Borough police and paints a picture of substantial conflict within police ranks. The disclosure raises an oversight question: how does the Borough’s governing body intend to oversee Borough police in dealing with the misconduct and conflict within the department?

The misconduct and conflict cost the Borough hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay for suspended officers, focused police administration on internal investigations rather than community policing, and led to the termination (voluntary and involuntary) of numerous trained professionals who will have to be replaced at great expense to the taxpayers.

Will Mayor and Council address these issues and, if so, how and when?

One way the governing body might provide oversight is to address such specific questions as these:

1. What is the nature and extent of the conflict within the ranks; how has the conflict affected the efficiency of the department; has the conflict affected public safety and, if so, how; has the conflict made it more difficult for the Borough to retain police officers; and will the Borough administration conduct exit interviews of recent former police officers who voluntarily left the force to learn their views concerning the conflict?

2. Should the Borough’s administrative code be amended to change the rules regarding who decides to suspend an officer, with or without pay; who decides whether or not to proceed with administrative charges during the pendency of a county prosecutor’s investigation; who decides to charge an officer with a crime (as opposed to merely allowing an officer to resign employment); and who advocates for the victims of officers who committed crimes?

3. Should Borough government be more active in informing the public about internal affairs investigations; what channels should be used in disseminating such information; and what should be the schedule of disclosure so that the interests of accused officers are appropriately balanced against the interests of the public in knowing how their police operate?

The police have the largest budget of any Borough department, and police officers, who have more contact with the public than any other Borough employees, should represent the moral high ground of the community. Therefore, internal affairs investigations showing police misconduct and conflict within the department is of great concern to everyone.

The Borough governing body has a special responsibility to lead the community in self-analysis to address misconduct and conflict within police ranks. What oversight does the governing body intend to provide?

ROGER MARTINDELL
Prospect Avenue
Member, Princeton Borough Council

More Than a Building Would Be Lost if Valley Road School Were Destroyed

To the Editor:

The clock is ticking for the old Valley Road School, through whose doors so many in my husband’s and my generation passed. As I walk or drive by the school every day, I am saddened to see how empty and neglected it is. While recognizing that our elected officials on the school board and Township Committee are rightly concerned about the current financial crisis, I disagree with the proposition that demolishing the front of the building facing Witherspoon Street is the fiscally responsible route. This plan is shortsighted because there does not appear to be any concrete plan in place for what would replace the building, and because if we lose the Valley Road School, we lose a tangible link to Princeton’s past that could benefit future generations.

Whether Valley Road School is historic or merely old, it is undoubtedly an important anchor for the end of Witherspoon Street. To destroy this building would create a hole in the immediate neighborhood. Its materials and detailing provide the design cues for the fire station next door, and, to some extent, the new township building across the street. The school is rich with association for past and present Princetonians who attended, taught, or worked there, and it is part of the legacy of our great school system that built it. Instead of taking demolition of this old building for granted, we should be dreaming up ways to put it to new use and rolling up our sleeves to make something happen.

“We” includes both our elected officials and members of the community. We all need to come together to share our stories about this place and envision a better future for it.

CELIA TAZELAAR
Laurel Road

For information on how to submit Letters to the Editor, click here.

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