Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 37
 
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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All in a Day’s Work

(Photo by Dilshanie Perera)
PUBLIC GUARDIAN: Township Police Sergeant Robert Toole is pictured here alongside police patches and badges, one of which he helped to design. He mentioned that the lightning bolt symbol was added to the uniform in the early 1960s, and symbolizes the use of radio to dispatch officers.

Sergeant Robert Toole has been involved with public safety all his life. A member of the Township police force for the past 22 years, Sgt. Toole is also the president of Hook and Ladder, and has been a volunteer fire fighter since age 16.

Dilshanie Perera

I grew up in town. I lived on Moore Street my entire life. I graduated from PHS, and went to Mercer County Community College for a little bit. We lived a block down from the high school in the Borough. My two sisters, mom and dad, and my grandparents all lived in town. We’re Princetonians.

My father has been a member of the Fire Department forever. Both my grandfathers were members. And my mom’s cousins were members long before I joined. So it’s kind of a family tradition. When I was growing up, I was always up there all the time. When my grandfather told me about the junior program, I thought I’d join to see what it’s all about. It sounded exciting and fun. And it was. It is.

We’re all volunteers at the fire department. Everyone has a pager, so you’re on call 24 hours a day. Because there are three stations in town, we rotate to lessen the stress on all of the volunteers. Each station is responsible for answering the calls during the nighttime hours for a week at a time.

A Surprise Delivery

Not too long after I was out of the Police Academy, I had just been put on my own. There was a motor vehicle accident on Bunn Drive. I was just finishing up with that when I got a dispatch up to Red Oak Row, in Princeton Community Village, for a woman who was giving birth. As soon as I walked in the door, she was right there, in the hallway, laying on the floor. She was in mid-birth. The baby was already emerging, and the father was freaking out a little bit. I told him to go get some towels to help me. It was a breech baby. The feet were coming out first, which is not good. I was helping to deliver the baby. Luckily for me, and for her, the First Aid Squad arrived and took over, so they finished the delivery. It was very stressful in the cramped quarters, and I was pretty much alone until the First Aid Squad got there. So that was one of the first crazy experiences that I had.

Under Stress

Princeton is a safe town, but it’s not immune to having random acts of violence and things like that. What happens in New York City, happens here, just on a smaller scale.

There are lots of different situations where you don’t know exactly what you’re getting into. You go in there expecting the worst, but you scale back your reaction based on what a person might do. I’ve had people trying to take a swing at me when I’ve already told them they’re under arrest and am trying to put handcuffs on them. I’ve had them try and assault me after they’ve been totally handcuffed. When people are under stress, and they’re excited or agitated, they do things they don’t do under normal circumstances.

Courts and Collaboration

The municipal prosecutor handles traffic, disorderly persons, and minor criminal offenses. Anything more serious than that goes up to the County Superior Court to be adjudicated. Third, second and first degree crimes are heard up there.

A long time ago, there was a gentleman who we suspected of doing a lot of different assaults in the Borough and Township. He had broken into a house, and had stabbed a woman in the shower, and he ran out of the house. I was probably the third or fourth officer on the scene. Because the two departments were already looking at him as a suspect, the Borough was staking out his apartment, and they caught him as he was running up the fire escape. I helped to deal with first aid for the victim, and to get her to the hospital, and when I came back I was in charge of processing him. I gave him his Miranda rights in English, which he seemed to understand. He signed everything, and I finished processing him, but there was a challenge in court asking how he could have acknowledged his rights when he isn’t a primary English speaker. That was my first experience in front of Superior Court, and it was a little nerve-wracking.

Working Together

The Borough and Township Police have a good working relationship. We’ve had burglaries lately in the nighttime, which is not typical, so we’ve been collaborating closely with the Borough and several other departments. We’ve been working together and sharing information, making sure everybody is on the same sheet of music, and making sure the information has gotten across to everyone. Because with your piece of information and mine, maybe we’ll be able to move on something.

We work closely with the Borough on the truck task force on 206. We meet about once a week and do a joint enforcement with the trucking violations. And we’ve always worked well together.

The Best Thing

What I’ve always found the most satisfying is helping the people who are not quite as able to help themselves as others, whether they’re elderly or challenged in some way, or whether they’re intimidated by other people and unable to defend themselves. I don’t mean in a physical way necessarily, but they’re unable to get out from under whatever abuse they may be getting from someone else. So, that’s always satisfying — whether it’s an abusive relationship, or a stranger trying to take advantage of another stranger — to be able to come in and remove that element and help the person out. To me, that’s what has been the best thing.

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