A main item on the agenda of the Princeton Borough Council meeting on Tuesday, December 8, was a proposed ordinance concerning what would be the best
structure for the Borough supervision of the police department. The focus was on whether the appropriate body
would be the Borough Administrator or a Public Safety Committee (PSC) consisting of some members of the Council.
Four members of the public spoke about their views. Maria Juega spoke on behalf of the Latin American Legal Defense Fund and Ann Yasuhara spoke
on behalf of Not In Our Town; both emphasized the importance of establishing regular avenues of communication between the public and the PSC. This is what Ann said:
To: Princeton Borough Council December 8, 2009
From: Not In Our Town
Good evening. My name is Ann Yasuhara and I live at 66 Pine Street in the Borough. I am here representing Not In Our Town.
We are pleased that the Council now seems to be considering having a Public Safety Committee that will be the “appropriate authority” to which the Police Department is to report and which will be the policy making body with respect to Police Department activities.
The Council members are the persons who live among us, whom we meet on the street, and who are more likely than the Boro Administrator to have a sense of what is and is not working for the members of the community. These matters are more subtle than bureaucratic; harder to describe or write about, but very important.
Although it is not in the ordinance before us this evening, Not In Our Town urges that as part of its duties the Public Safety Committee will open up some avenues for direct communication between its members and members of the community. There needs to be a way for members of the community to sit down with that group, at least a few times a year as well as on an emergency basis, to talk about their concerns, review policy and its implementation, and consider new or different policies that address those concerns. We think that with such a structure as part of the PSC, our group as well as many individuals and other groups will feel more cared about and cared for and that such interactions will improve the facts as well as the feelings about how our community can thrive. This is not about improving image, it is about improving how we actually live our lives here.
We definitely appreciate the comments of Mr. Martindell at the last meeting that no matter how terrific the structure of oversight may be, if the people designated to do that oversight do not do the work, the terrificness will not matter. Of course it is hard work and often quite challenging. But we certainly hope that there are some among you who think it is deeply important and are willing to make it work.
Please let us not rush. Please, dear Borough Council members, take this opportunity to find a really good way to establish a Public Safety Committee that will contribute seriously to making this is a community where everyone is safe and respected.
The Borough Council finally passed the ordinance making a Public Safety Committee [composed of 2 members of the BC to be appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the Borough Council + the Mayor and the Borough Administrator – both ex-officio] to be the appropriate authority and the Borough Administrator to look after disciplinary actions.
“The Borough Council seemed very interested in involving the public in some regular fashion, yet to be determined, in their policy and investigative function,” says Ann.