Category Archives: Features

Chief: Police won’t ask about immigration status, unless arresting

By Katheryn Quijada-Polanco

Oakland, CA

The man was unconscious. He’d been beaten and robbed. Nick Sutter, then a young detective in Princeton, feared he’d never catch the person who did it. That wasn’t because the attacker’s identity was unknown — the victim’s family knew exactly who was responsible. But they were undocumented immigrants from Guatemala and terrified that, if they talked to police, they’d be deported.

Sutter is now Princeton’s chief of police. That case, in particular, helped shape how he wants his officers to police immigrant and minority communities: by gaining their trust instead of instilling fear.

In many crimes, Sutter recently told The Princeton Summer Journal, victims are targeted “specifically because of their immigration status and their perceived hesitation to cooperate with law enforcement.” He added, “we’ve been trying to overcome that stigma with our community for a long time.”

Several recent incidents have made Sutter’s job harder. In 2016, Imani Perry, a Princeton African-American studies professor, was pulled over for speeding and then arrested on a warrant for unpaid parking violations. Perry’s account of being searched by a white male officer and handcuffed to a table at the police station made national headlines. Then, earlier this year, amid a national debate over officer-involved shootings, a mentally-troubled veteran named Scott L. Mielentz charged into a Panera Bread near the university with a bb gun. After an hours-long standoff, state troopers fatally shot him. “When a life is taken it’s not something that you get over quickly,” Sutter said.

Sutter lamented the mistrust between some residents and law enforcement—he said he became an officer to protect those who can’t protect themselves and shared several ideas for how to fix this. First, expand the department’s inventory of less-lethal weapons such as bean bags, tasers, batons, and pepper spray to better help officers disarm unstable people.

Sutter also wants his officers to wear body cameras to show the public that they’re trustworthy. He also plans to continue to diversify the department.

After all, he only solved the case of the man beaten into coma because someone from the Guatemalan community convinced the family to talk.

Chief seeks to build bridges

By Jesse Mendoza

South Gate, CA

Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter understands why immigrant families might be fearful of the police. Sutter, a department veteran of 24 years, has always been aware of the possible disconnect between the police department and immigrant communities.

According to Sutter, immigrants are oftentimes wary of interacting with police because they fear deportation. Yet, Sutter is concerned how misconceptions of law enforcement can discourage and deter immigrants in the community from calling for help when in need.

Sutter recalls a situation in his career when an undocumented, Hispanic man was sent to the hospital after a gruesome beating left him horribly injured to the point of comatose.

Sutter tried to question the victim’s family to find possible leads. He was certain that the family knew who the culprit was, but the undocumented relatives resisted interacting with the police. Because Sutter understood why the family was fearful around investigators, he made the conscious decision to stop approaching the family and find alternative witnesses.

Despite the additional time and energy, Sutter was eventually able to find the culprit.

On a recent afternoon, Sutter walked into a Princeton classroom wearing a light blue suit and a gentle smile. Using a calm yet confident tone, he introduced himself as the Police Chief of Princeton, then sat down, maintaining his dominant stature. “If [an immigrant’s] child is sick,” Sutter said, “We don’t want them not to dial 9-1-1 because they are scared that we’re going to ask about their immigration status.”

Sutter is determined the change the perception that police might ask about immigration status not only for immigrants but for the wider Princeton community. Sutter has implemented procedures that are similar to sanctuary cities with policies that limit cooperation with the federal government in enforcing immigration law.

In Princeton, immigrants won’t be asked their citizenship status unless they’re arrested for a crime such as driving under the influence.

Sutter has also pushed for “community policing events,” where law enforcement can socialize with immigrants. Every squad on the force is required to participate in an event such as a car wash or barbeque to get to know the wider Princeton community.

Misconceptions aren’t only an issue for police officers and immigrants, but also a problem for doctors and politicians and professionals in other fields. Sutter knows that such perceptions are harmful and false and has made it his mission to change them.

Campus conservatives navigate post-Trump republicanism

By Valeria Escobar
Dallas, TX

With camo cargo shorts and a blue crew-neck shirt commemorating the Battle of Gettysburg, Matthew Penza, a rising junior at Princeton, stood in front of the classroom in a power stance. He first seriously contemplated conservative ideology when he studied great thinkers of the Enlightenment such John Locke, Voltaire, and Montesquieu. But Penza would later dismiss their arguments from his political philosophy. “I am a monarchist,” he told the Princeton Summer Journal. “I am an uppercase ‘R’ Republican. I do not believe in the idea of a republic.”

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Administrators, students respond to Trump immigration policy

By Danielle Emerson
Shiprock, NM

On a Friday afternoon, Albert Rivera took the train home from work. His eyes were on his phone the entire time. The message would have been lost in his email if he had not glanced at it that morning. A member of Princeton University faced legal complications at the airport. Rivera was busy texting an attorney. This was right after President Trump announced the travel ban.

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Private prison divestment student activists call for more transparency

By Claudia Kania
Burbank, IL

The nationwide debate over private prisons came to the Princeton campus this year, with students speaking out against corporations contracted by the federal government to house inmates.

For-profit prisons came to center stage in February, after the Justice Department under President Trump’s administration opted out of the previous administration’s plan to gradually discontinue the practice.

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Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert discusses “chilling effect” of Trump’s presidency on town

By Annie Dong
New York City, NY

Last year, as President Trump campaigned on an anti-immigration platform, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert was knocking on doors in one of Princeton’s immigrant communities as she campaigned for her second term. She approached a Muslim couple to ask for their support. The woman, wearing a headscarf, lingered in the doorway.

“They were terrified,” Lempert said in an interview.

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Officials, student activists on university’s new gender-inclusive housing policy

By Tanya Solorzano
Bell Gardens, CA

Princeton student Arlene Gamio had to worry about more than just passing classes and getting homesick: As someone with a non-binary gender identity, Gamio had to grapple with living in a dormitory restricted to a gender with which they did not identify.

That arrangement made the already-difficult task of coming to terms with gender identity even more difficult, they (Gamio’s preferred pronoun) said.

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