Princeton town hall meeting discusses Griggs Farm apartments fire, police training
Princeton residents raised concerns about emergency preparedness and environmental awareness, and Princeton Police Department discussed its racial profiling training at a town hall meeting on Monday, Feb. 12.
After initial announcements by the town council, the meeting addressed non-agenda comments made by members of the public. Martha Friend discussed relief efforts for a Dec. 27 fire at the Griggs Farm apartments that rendered 35 people homeless and resulted in one death. Relief efforts continue today, Friend said.
Friend thanked Princeton Public Schools and town businesses like Hoagie Haven for their responsiveness during the emergency. She emphasized that the situation demands continued efforts.
Friend cited the experience of a woman who, like other Griggs Farm residents, was told to empty her apartment following the fire. Unable to afford a storage unit, she was compelled to discard nearly all of her belongings.
Council member Lance Liverman thanked Friend for going “above and beyond” to aid those in need following the disaster.
Another town resident suggested enhancing the town emergency response system through a not-for-profit monetary fund designated for disaster relief and administered by the town health and housing departments.
“Response would be coordinated . . . and guidelines for dealing with any disaster would already be in place,” the community member said.
Sustainability issues also surfaced repeatedly during the town hall meeting. A community member from the Food & Water Watch, a New Jersey environmental group, suggested the town adopt a resolution to discourage fossil fuel usage.
He said this resolution would “increase renewable portfolio standards” so that utilities would have to purchase 100 percent of their renewable energy by the year 2035.
Council member Timothy Quinn encouraged the council to present this proposal to the Princeton Environmental Commission, which, he said, was already expecting to be addressed about such a resolution.
Quinn predicted that the resolution would be established by the next month. He also expressed optimism about a future partnership with Sustainable Princeton and a shared commitment to implementing best practices for clean energy usage.
Council members then passed a motion, originally suggested in the zoning board’s 2017 annual report, to relax requirements for solar panel “setbacks,” or the distance that panels must be kept away from the edge of a roof. Restrictions had previously forced the zoning board to decline several solar panel installation applications, leading to the motion.
The council’s commitment to sustainability and to providing disaster relief to victims of the Griggs Farm fire was paralleled by the Princeton Police Department’s show of commitment to de-escalation and racial profiling training for their officers.
In his report, Princeton Police Chief Nicholas Sutter said the police have incorporated profiling training for seven years. A state-mandated racial profiling and de-escalation training has been incorporated into this pre-existing training for the past year.
According to Sutter, the police department also evaluates individual officers’ interactions with the public to discern any patterns in their encounters that would indicate discriminatory behavior. Using these patterns, the department assesses the risk of discrimination incurred by any one officer, as well as by the aggregate body of police officers.
Sutter also highlighted an overall health program to focus on and help manage officers’ overall health — mental as well as physical. Officers overworking themselves is a consistent concern, according to Sutter.
“We want to show we care and are invested in their health,” Sutter said.
The next town hall meeting will be held on Feb. 26 and will include a conversation with President Eisgruber. While the meeting will begin at 7 p.m. as usual, the conversation with Eisgruber is scheduled for 8 p.m. The meeting will be held in Monument Hall to account for the expected larger-than-usual audience.