September 16, 2020

Council Pays Tribute to Police Chief Sutter

By Anne Levin

October 1 is Princeton Police Chief Nicholas Sutter’s last day on the job. At Princeton Council’s meeting Monday, Sutter was lauded for his more than 25 years on the force —  six of them as chief. The 49-year-old Lawrence resident announced his retirement three months ago.

Current and past Council members, legislators, and Mayor Liz Lempert thanked Sutter for his leadership and credited him with transforming the department into “not only a state but really a national model of policing,” according to former Council member Heather Howard.

Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman, Assemblyman Roy Freiman, and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, all of New Jersey’s 16th Legislative District, took turns reading a joint legislative resolution dedicated to Sutter. Lempert read a proclamation from Council.

“He led Princeton through consolidation as well as anybody could have hoped,” said Lempert, prior to reading the proclamation. She cited Sutter’s leadership for “the values our officers are told to uphold, empathy and service to the community. It’s hard to imagine this place without him, because of the big mark he’s left.”

Sutter was captain in Princeton Borough before consolidation of the Borough and Township. He served as acting chief when former chief David Dudeck was forced to retire amid allegations of harassment and discrimination, and a civil suit by seven police offers against him and the municipality. Sutter was named chief in 2014, a year after consolidation.

Howard, who was the town’s first police commissioner and an original member of the public safety committee, said Sutter’s retirement was “sad for Princeton, and sad for me. I was continually inspired by his amazing leadership, especially for police to be guardians, not warriors.”

Former Councilman Lance Liverman paid tribute to Sutter for his understanding when Liverman was arrested for driving under the influence in 2012. “When I was shamed by so many, the chief was there for me and my family.” he said. Municipal Administrator Marc Dashield called Sutter “by far the best chief of police I’ve ever worked with, after 25 years of working in the state. He has literally changed the culture of the department. What most
departments are trying to do, he has already accomplished.”

Each current Council member commented, thanking Sutter for his service. “It’s great to know we have a chief who didn’t have to wait for a protest to create a very progressive, forward-thinking department,” said Councilman Dwaine Williamson.

Sutter was obviously touched by the tributes, and thanked Council, Dashield, and former administrator Bob Bruschi for their support over the years. He said he is leaving a department that is “a great collection of people. They are so ready to push ahead and achieve greater things than they already have. I’m so impressed by all the talent. The only thing that really eclipses their individual talents is what they are able to do as a team.”

Later in the meeting, Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton reported on the Witherspoon StrEAT survey, which was issued in July to gather feedback on the outdoor dining changes necessitated by the pandemic. The 12 questions were focused on how people got to Princeton, why they came, how many businesses they visited while in town, and the mask policy. There were 140 responses. About half of the respondents drove to Princeton to visit, she said.

“The goal of the survey was really to get feedback from people who were visiting the downtown area, to understand if we were meeting needs with the changes that were made,” Stockton said, referring to a portion of the street being made one-way.

The issue was to be revisited Tuesday evening at a meeting focused on Witherspoon Street neighborhood design. Options for the future include keeping the street one-way, returning it to two-way, and closing it to traffic. A follow-up meeting will be held next month, and the town’s historical commission will also be consulted.

Reporting on the town’s 2019 audit, Robert Morrison said it was “good all around.” Council voted to accept the audit.

Among the actions taken by Council were approval of resolutions related to affordable housing, a redevelopment project on Thanet Road, and an agreement with Princeton University for the installation of a bike boulevard signage on College Road for a period of one year.

The next meeting of Council is being held on Wednesday, September 30 instead of the previously scheduled Monday, September 28, because of the Yom Kippur holiday.