By Stacey Coleen Lubag
Las Vegas, Nev.
Some cops are in it for the thrill of the chase, but Lt. Johnathan Bucchere believes police also need to meet the emotional needs of their communities by acting as counselors, therapists, and social workers as needed. The almost 20-year-veteran of the Princeton Police Department urges officers to be “well-rounded” and promotes trustworthy, kind policing throughout the ranks.
Bucchere’s passion for law enforcement was born during his college years. As the younger brother of two, he found himself looking up to his siblings so much that, when his brother made the sudden switch from coaching basketball to serving as a New Jersey state trooper, Bucchere went in a similar direction. But he didn’t follow his brother to the state’s highways. Instead, he sought to help a community by joining the Princeton Police Department.
“I realized that criminal justice would be a good avenue [for me],” he said. “I learned a lot about the profession by watching my brother.”
Bucchere lit up when asked how he ensures a strong bond between the people and law enforcement. “The patrol division is required to do one community policing project per squad a year,” he explained. “At first we did Coffee with a Cop, but [then] we had to think outside the box.” Officers have bagged groceries on Senior Citizen Day, and recently the department hosted a “Bats and Badges” event, where officers brought hamburgers and hot dogs to the Princeton Little League, serving as coaches and helping the team. “Nobody was in uniform, but we were still representing the department,” he said. “It was unbelievable. That’s how you get external legitimacy, where the community values and trusts you.”
Bucchere is cheerful and outgoing, but even he can be frustrated by citizens who take their anger out on him after receiving tickets. His boss, police chief Nick Sutter, advised him to stay pleasant and polite in those situations, and Bucchere tries to put on a straight face and let incidents pass.
Bucchere said the department also tries to assist marginalized parts of the community, like undocumented residents. Princeton is a “welcoming community,” he said, and police do not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I think the community trusts us,” he said, “because we give them a reason to.”