Some General Advice to Princeton Boro Police Commissioner
By Doron Zeilberger
Written: March 22, 2009
Date: March 22, 2009.
To: Ms. Margaret Karcher, Princeton Borough Police Commissioner (by snail-mail)
From: Doron Zeilberger, Princeton, NJ
Copies to:"Tony Federico"
Also posted in: http://doronzeilberger.blogspot.com/ and http://doronzeilberger.org/AMK.html
Dear Ms. Karcher,
You may remember my complaint about the conduct of Sgt. Jonathan Bucchere (#123) from Nov. 16, 2008. In case you forgot, it is available to you (and the general public) here:
Since my "brush" with the police, and the courtroom, I have been made more aware of other possible misdeeds of members of the Princeton Boro Police Department. I hope that you would take this as constructive criticism to make the Princeton Boro function even better and more ethically, and remembering that being members of the Police force does not make you exempt from the law.
Regarding the present incident, I regert to say that the advice given to me by Lt. Sutter (see his Email message below) was not a good one. He advised me to plead "not guilty". When I appeared in Princeton Boro Municipal Court, on my "court day", Jan. 10, 2009, after having to sit more than two hours, listening to endless cases, mostly of DWI charges (in front of his honor, (then) Municipal Court Judge Russel, who, in my opinion, was not qualified to judge such cases, since he may have been too lenient, since he himself was charged on this offense, back in 1993), it was my turn. When I pleaded "not guilty", I was told that I would have to come again, since the main witness, Sgt. Bucchere (the police officer who issued the summons) was not there. Of course, I changed it immediately to "guilty", since having to come again to this ordeal is a much worse punishment than the $170 fine that I had to pay. This brings me to:
Advice 1: Make sure that all police officers who issue summons, show up to court, at the appropriate dates, so that defendants who choose to plead "not guilty" would not be forced to come back.
Advice 2: If the above is not feasible, ask Lt. Sutter not to give such bad advice, but rather:
"My advice it to plead guilty, this way you would only have to come to court once".
Going to more general issues, I noticed that many police officers do not observe traffic laws. I often noticed them stop way past the stop-sign (and white line) (and sometimes not stopping at all, a few years ago, I was almost run over by a police car that didn't observe the stop-sign, when I was jogging on Pretty Brook Rd.). Also, yesterday (March 21, 2009), I saw a police car parked illegally on Tulane St. (off Nassau St.) I am willing to bet that the police officer went to have lunch at Panera (or somewhere else). I also noticed many times police cars driving (without sirens or flashing lights) way above the speed limit. Another thing I often noticed is that two police cars parked one against the other, with their drivers chatting endlessly, with their engines running (contributing to global warming).
Rather than stalking innocent citizens, who discreetly do "their business" with no one in sight, not bothering anyone, the Princeton Boro Police can do a much better job enforcing traffic laws. For example, the traffic light at the corner of Nassau and Witherspoon St. is violated daily by almost all pedestrians and motorists who pass there. There is a left-turn-arrow on Nassau St. (in the direction due North), so the "Don't Walk Sign" stays for a while. Most pedestrians ignore it, and start walking, preventing the left-turning vehicles to turn during the short-lived arrow, causing congestion, and a potential accident. This brings me to:
Advice 3: Put a police officer, as often as you can, at the corner of Nassau and Witherspoon streets, and issue tickets to pedestrians for not observing the "Don't Walk signal".
Not that motorists are so innocent. At the same intersection, many vehicles keep turning left long after the left-turn-arrow stops, also causing congestion and potential accidents. This brings me to:
Advice 4: Put a police officer, as often as you can, at the corner of Nassau and Witherspoon Sts., and issue tickets to motorists who are turning left when it is no longer one's right of way (i.e. long after the left-arrow ceased).
I also noticed that many cars do not observe the traffic law that pedestrians have the right of way at a crosswalk (without a light). It would be nice if the police would enforce this law much more vigorously.
Going back to the unfortunate incident, police officers should have ethics seminar, teaching them that their duty is to protect the citizens, and fight crime, rather than to write as many possible tickets as possible. This brings me to:
Advice 5: Conduct seminars for the police force, teaching them the importance of common sense and a sense of proportion.
Finally, in order to prevent police abuse of powers (which is very easy, since most people are afraid of the police, and afraid to complain), have an internal police, who would make sure that police officers obey all the traffic and other laws.