Kinder, Gentler, and Community-Oriented
By Anne Levin | Photographs by Charles R. Plohn
Last February, Princeton Council approved a settlement of $3.925 million in a lawsuit with seven members of the Princeton Police Department. Filed in 2013, the suit accused police chief David Dudeck of harassment, discrimination, and creating a hostile work environment. The town did not admit any liability, and the plaintiffs agreed to not file another suit.
The settlement marked the end of an unsavory chapter in the history of law enforcement in Princeton. But things have actually been on the upswing since 2015, when former police captain Nicholas Sutter was promoted to replace Dudeck, who was permitted to retire soon after the suits were filed.
A different culture that began to emerge then appears to now be firmly in place. Transparency, diversity, an openness to change, and respect are the department’s core values. While nine officers have retired over the past few years, new recruits — several of whom are under 30 — come from a variety of non-traditional backgrounds. Of the 61 officers now on the force, six speak Spanish. One speaks Mandarin. Six are African American, including the first black woman officer in the department’s history. There is an officer dedicated to LGBTQ issues.
“It’s not just ethnicity or gender,” says Sutter. “It’s also about backgrounds. We have former teachers, former members of the military. We even have some talented musicians. There is a vast level of experience here that we might not have seen before.” more