Allegations of misconduct involving Princeton police chief David J. Dudeck have been turned over to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. Mr. Dudeck, who has not been at work this week, may or may not return to the job.
“Dave remains the chief of the department,” said Princeton administrator Bob Bruschi on Monday. “The whole department is managing through a huge distraction. They’ll continue to do their jobs while we work our way through. He is trying to figure out the best way of dealing with this, not only from his own perspective but from the department’s perspective. I don’t know when he’ll come back, and I honestly don’t know if he will.”
It was through leaks late last week to area news outlets that it was alleged that Mr. Dudeck has made inappropriate comments to officers over the past two years. While local officials declined comment on the allegations, they did stress that they are of an administrative nature, not a criminal one.
“There is no concern that these are criminal issues,” said Mr. Bruschi. “The policy we have to deal with is set by the state attorney general’s office, and that is if a complaint is lodged against a police chief it has to be referred to the prosecutor’s office. They would conduct an investigation if there was one, but one has not been started.”
Efforts to reach Mr. Dudeck were unsuccessful.
Mayor Liz Lempert said Tuesday that it would be inappropriate for her to comment directly on the issue. “We are following the state attorney general’s guidelines on how to handle personnel matters regarding the chief,” she said. “It is also important to note that the department has been doing a great job in coming together with consolidation, and that work continues in making sure we’re delivering the best possible services to residents, seeing where we can enhance services, and staying focused on that mission.”
Last week, Princeton Council’s public safety committee, which includes Ms. Lempert, Heather Howard, and Lance Liverman, met with First Assistant Mercer County Prosecutor Doris M. Galuchie, who handles internal affairs of police departments. Mr. Dudeck and Mr. Bruschi also attended the meeting. “We had a two-or-three-minute briefing on it, and that was all,” Mr. Bruschi said. “It was about personnel issues, for lack of a better word, but I won’t get into specifics.”
Mr. Bruschi stressed that contrary to some previous reports, Mr. Dudeck was not issued an ultimatum to either resign or be investigated. “It is nothing like that. He’s had some discussions with the prosecutor’s office,” he said. “We’re just trying to step back and get a handle on what’s been thrown out there.”
Should the prosecutor’s office decide to launch an investigation, and there is something they need to report to Princeton Council, the governing body would then decide if any disciplinary step needs to be taken. “There is a lot of concern that this be handled professionally, and that we make sure it’s done well,” Mr. Bruschi said. “We’ve been told not to rush through the process, and to let it unfold.”
Mr. Bruschi added that while there has been no official discussion of the situation among members of the Council, they have been informed “only in the very generic sense” about the process.
Mr. Dudeck began work for the Borough police in 1983, and was chosen to lead the department following the death of former chief Anthony Federico in 2009. Last year, he was chosen to be chief of police for consolidated Princeton. He is a 1977 graduate of The Hun School and has been its head football coach for 10 years.
Prior to consolidation, Princeton Township police Chief Robert Buchanan accepted an agreement to leave the department last March. Previous to that in the Township, Chief Mark Emann left following charges involving improper trading of police weapons.
“It’s really important to have a force that’s working well,” said Ms. Lempert this week. “And whatever we have to do to get there, we will.”