Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 22
 
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
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Borough Approves Creating Position of Police Captain, Nicholas Sutter to Fill Role

Dilshanie Perera

Borough police officer Nicholas Sutter is now officially the second in command of the force. He will be sworn in as captain on Tuesday after Town Topics press time. Mr. Sutter was promoted from his previous position of lieutenant after much discussion within the department and by the governing body as to the structuring of the Borough’s police force.

At a recent Council meeting, municipal officials voted 5-1 to approve the appointment of Mr. Sutter to the position, with Councilman Roger Martindell voting no on the grounds that it was not the right time to promote someone to the position of captain.

Both Mr. Sutter and Lieutenant Sharon Papp were up for consideration for the captaincy. Council member David Goldfarb noted that “the decision here was not an easy one. I am delighted by the choice … and we would have been served well by either candidate.”

Mr. Martindell acknowledged that Mr. Sutter was “a wonderful candidate,” and pointed out that he was voting against the resolution because of the timing. “It does cost more money, and we are in a serious financial situation. I don’t think it’s necessary to promote someone right now. It sends a message and I don’t think it makes sense in this economic climate.”

“The reality is that the captain is the presumptive chief,” Mr. Martindell suggested, while asking Council to delay the decision until they could “look at the two lieutenants and anyone else and make a mature and carefully considered decision in a year or two.”

“I don’t think it’s premature to evaluate Lieutenants Sutter and Papp, because we did that last year [in considering them for the position of chief],” Councilman Kevin Wilkes said.

Mr. Goldfarb noted that seeing Mr. Sutter in action as second in command would actually be beneficial for the Borough, and would not put them in a situation of ambiguous command should Chief Dudeck be away or unavailable. Following the untimely death of former Chief Anthony Federico last year, the Borough’s police force was placed under a strain by not having a clear second in charge, he added.

Mr. Martindell also voted against a resolution to establish a police department hiring list, with the rest of Council voting for it. The list would allow for individuals to be selected to fill a vacancy or new position as patrol officer after the requisite approvals.

Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi explained that “we want to try to stay ahead of the curve. This would allow us to have people in reserve.” Three candidates for the position of patrol officer are currently on the hiring list, and may remain there for up to a year, according to the resolution.

Mr. Martindell and Councilwoman Barbara Trelstad both advocated for a discussion about the Borough’s goals vis-a-vis the police department. “What is our ultimate goal in what we would like our police department to look like, and what we would like them to do?” Ms. Trelstad asked.

Special attention should be paid to kinds of responses, state mandates, and shared services with the Township or other area municipalities, Mr. Martindell said. “We need to look at the program needs, and look at the staffing needs.”

“I think we thoroughly discussed patrol and came to a clear Council policy,” Andrew Koontz remarked. “Patrol is the most important function of the police department; we can’t do without it.”

Police Chief Dudeck said he would “welcome a discussion” with Council.

In other police matters, Borough Council passed a resolution 5-1 approving entering into a settlement agreement with officer James Dodd. The settlement is valued at $40,000.

Mr. Martindell voted against the measure, saying that he sees “a pattern in the Borough with issues raised not being sufficiently addressed,” citing the police personnel management practice, addressing the interests of residents, and cost as not being adequately resolved. He sought answers to questions like, “How have our policies been adjusted? Was there harm to residents, and what has been done to address that harm? Can the [cost of the settlement] be justified vis-a-vis the Borough taxpayer?”

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