The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office is currently reviewing allegations of administrative misconduct against Princeton Police Department Chief David Dudeck. Dudeck has been out of the office since Feb. 26, when the review first began.
The prosecutor’s spokeswoman, Casey DeBlasio, explained that this is not a formal investigation but that the office is “reviewing allegations of administrative misconduct.” Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert noted that the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for conducting all investigations in which a police chief or director is involved.
Although specific details of the allegations have not been revealed, Dudeck allegedly asked an officer to pull off his shirt to display his abs, called another officer a “fag” and made jokes of a sexual nature, according to Princeton Patch.
Dudeck was formerly the police chief of the Princeton Borough Police Department and took command Jan. 1 as the inaugural chief of the consolidated Princeton Police Department.
Dudeck did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Messages left on his cell phone went unreturned.
Captain Nick Sutter, who is the only captain at the police department, is currently filling in for many of Dudeck’s responsibilities. Sutter declined to comment on any details regarding Dudeck’s absence and allegations.
Sutter was also the department’s liaison for press inquiries until Thursday morning. In an email sent to the editors of several local news outlets Thursday, Sutter said Sergeant Mike Cifelli would take over the responsibility of issuing press releases and social media notifications.
Cifelli was the press liaison for the Princeton Township Police Department before consolidation. Sutter did not respond to a follow up email asking if the new arrangement is expected to be permanent or temporary.
In a press conference in February, Sutter announced the police department was staffed by 51 members at the time, a number lower than the expected 56-member force following consolidation. With Dudeck’s absence, the force would be down to 50 officers.
Dudeck is not the first Princeton chief to be accused of misconduct and several officers have accused the Borowugh department of using internal investigations as a form of retaliation in the past.
“Members of the department too frequently stab each other in the back and behave like wayward teenagers,” former Borough Council member Roger Martindell said.
He explained he has been frustrated with the “intradepartmental politics” of the department in the past. He added that there exists a bureaucratic problem in that the municipality looks to the county for guidance. However, the county is not in charge of the police department, so essentially there is no one properly reviewing the allegations of misconduct against Dudeck.
“They don’t look out for the best interests of the department or the community as a whole — what they need is exposure to the sunlight, discipline, and leadership,” he said. “There should be a thorough and open investigation of the allegations.”
Martindell further explained that a resignation by Dudeck would be even more problematic for the Princeton Police Department, and suggested that tension between the Borough and Township management and the police union has led to a lack of unification and strong leadership within the department.
“To get rid of a chief for stupid comments, you are really closing down the ability of police chiefs to function because everyone makes stupid comments,” he said.
Martindell explained that the police department is composed of “individuals with too much time, too much money and too little interest in the service of the community.”
However, Lempert noted that, “the police department has been one of the models in terms of consolidation.” She added that the process of the consolidation has been “better than expected.”
Lempert declined to comment further on the Dudeck investigation, noting again that the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for dealing with all such personnel matters.
Dudeck is also the head football coach at the Hun School of Princeton. The Hun School did not respond to inquiries on whether the recent allegations have affected his post.
He has served on the Princeton police force since 1983 and was designated the chief of the Borough police department in 2009. He became chief of the consolidated police department last year. As of now, his absence from the department totals over two weeks and it is unclear when he will return to his post.
DeBlasio noted that the Prosecutor’s office does not have an approximation or timeline for when it will have completed reviewing the allegations.
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