In response to African American Studies Professor Imani Perry’s arrest on Saturday, some University students are collecting stories from students, alumni, staff and faculty who have had experiences plagued by racism with the Princeton police department, according to Asanni York ’17.
York said that this effort has the aim of urging the University to issue a statement supporting Perry, he said.
He explained that the University, which he noted prides itself on diversity and inclusion, needs to look at the fact that though Perry is a black woman with a distinguished background, she still experiences the troubles that face other black women at the hands of police brutality and at the hand of a police state.
"The police department is already threatening Professor Perry and the University needs to stand in solidarity with her," York said.
York added that the students are issuing statements on Facebook, sending emails to campus listservs and tweeting to raise awareness.
Perry was arrested on Saturday, Feb. 6 for driving while suspended, according to Lieutenant Jonathan Bucchere, a member of the Support Services Division at the Princeton Police Department.
Perry declined to comment.
Bucchere explained that Perry was stopped for speeding on Saturday around 9:30 a.m. on Mercer Street after being detected through a radar by an officer on duty. He said the police stopped Perry on the shoulder of the road for speeding, conducted necessary investigations and discovered that Perry was no longer a legal driver at the time.
"It was learned that her driving privileges had been suspended. Further investigation revealed that she had an act of warrant issued by the Princeton Municipal Court. That warrant in 2013 was issued for a violation of the Parking Adjudication Act," said Bucchere.
Bucchere noted that while driving privilege suspensions are handled by the municipal court, several notifications are typically sent to the subject prior to a warrant being issued.
Bucchere noted that as a consequence of those findings, the police on duty arrested Perry.
"She was placed under arrest per our protocol and as required by the state and was brought to the police station, she posted the bail that satisfied the warrant, and was released," Bucchere said.
Bucchere said that bringing in an individual apprehended for similar traffic violations and performing the necessary processes typically lasts around two or three hours.
Bucchere declined to comment on when Perry’s driving privileges were suspended and whether multiple parking tickets were issued for her.
According to the New Jersey Parking Adjudication Act, persons upon conviction of the first offense of this statute will be fined $500. The defendant will also be surcharged a mandatory $250 per year for three years for every Driving While Suspended violation by the DMV. Upon conviction for the second offense a fine of $750 will be assessed and imprisonment in the county jail for not more than five days will be ordered, and a fine of $1000 and imprisonment in the county jail for 10 days will be issued for a third offense.
In September 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled to broaden police authority to search vehicles based on probable cause.
In a Facebook post written on Monday, Perry noted that her quarrel was not with paying a fine or getting a ticket, even though such punishments are disproportionately meted upon black people who often don’t have the resources to pay them.
"My quarrel is with how I was treated," she wrote. "If it is the standard protocol in an affluent suburb to disallow a member of the community to make a call before an arrest (simply to inform someone of her arrest) and if it is the protocol to have male officers to pat down the bodies of women, and if it is the norm to handcuff someone to a table for failing to pay a parking ticket, we have a serious problem with policing in the society."
She further noted that she did not want to isolate the Princeton Police but would like to hear a response.
In response to heated concerns within the University community and beyond regarding the incident, Bucchere said that the Princeton Police Department will conduct a thorough, ongoing investigation about the course of events.
"We are aware that there are a lot of activity, especially in the social media arena; thus there are many reasons for us to look into the matter; we are doing the prudent thing by looking into whether the officer [on duty] followed protocols appropriately," Bucchere said.
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misspelled Perry's name. The 'Prince' regrets the error.