By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
The Princeton University professor arrested over the weekend on a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket said Tuesday that she felt distrust of the Princeton Police Department and expressed concerns over the “extreme” police response that included her being handcuffed to a table at police headquarters.
In a phone interview, Imani Perry offered her take on the traffic stop and what ensued afterward and expressed thanks for the support she has received, despite being the target of racist and sexist attacks on the Internet.
“I don’t trust their police force at this point,” said Ms. Perry, who is black.
The incident began when her four-door Acura was pulled over by a white officer on Mercer Road for speeding, at 9:07 a.m. on Saturday. Police have said she had been doing 67 mph in a 45 zone; the ticket she was issued stated she was going 64 mph, the speed at which she was originally clocked on radar. At either number, she denied traveling at that rate of speed, “maybe 50,” in her words.
“There was no way I was going that fast,” she said.
Police said a warrant had been issued for her arrest for two unpaid parking tickets, although when Ms. Perry asked the officer why she was being arrested, she said she was told it was for one ticket from 2013. Ms. Perry maintains she had paid the ticket, and that she was checking bank records to find proof of the payment.
While on the road during the traffic stop, she said she was body-searched by a male officer and asked if she was armed. She said she had asked police if she could call someone at the university who could verify her identity, but her request was turned down.
Ms. Perry said she had indicated she was willing to pay whatever fine she owed, and that she had asked twice if she could be driven to an ATM since she had no cash on her. Her request was rejected, with Ms. Perry saying she needed to call a colleague to bring money to bail her out of custody.
Police have charged her with speeding and driving with a suspended driver’s license. She contends the issue with her license had to do a registration issue that she cleared up Monday.
In the immediate aftermath of the arrest and the days since, she has taken to Twitter to share some of the details of what had occurred to her.
Ms. Perry said that on Monday, a Princeton lieutenant called her and said the department had received her complaint. She found that odd, given she had not filed one. She said the officer told her that it was a complaint of sorts based on what she was writing on Twitter, and that police might have to release details of her arrest.
To her, she said she took that as a threat.
Princeton Police Chief Nicholas K. Sutter on Monday shared with reporters details of Saturday’s incident, in which officials said the officer who made the stop followed all policies and procedures. Authorities have asked the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate their handling of the matter.
In the meantime, Ms. Perry, 43, remains on sabbatical from her job at the university, where she has worked for seven years. She is a professor of African-American studies.
Yet Ms. Perry, a Pennsylvania resident, expressed concern at the thought of having to drive in Princeton, afraid that she will be stopped again.
Since the arrest, the issue has become a national news story at a time of heightened scrutiny of police tactics and concerns by black Americans about how police treat them. Ms. Perry said she has been the target of “constant attacks,” including racial slurs directed at her on the Internet. “It’s really difficult,” she said.
Yet she expressed thanks for the support of her co-workers. University President Christopher L. Eisgruber, writing in the pages of the student newspaper on Tuesday, said he shared the concerns that people have expressed about the incident.
“I appreciate his kind words,” she said.
In the meantime, she is due in Princeton Municipal Court on Feb.23. She said she is looking for a lawyer to represent her, and that she is not intending to sue or looking for money.
“I really do love Princeton,” she said.
By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer