Ithaca Plans Yearlong Review Of Its Police Policies And Spending

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TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) – Ithaca will begin a review of policing that will last until April, 2021. Thursday, Mayor Svante Myrick announced his decision to form a task force to review all public safety, but especially policing.

Myrick’s announcement was made through his Facebook page and the city’s website.

Myrick said the “task force will have a broad mandate: to consult the public and deliver to Common Council a set of recommendations that reimagines the Ithaca Police Department and all public safety programs by April 1st, 2021.”

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Media

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick in the WSKG Ithaca studio. September 19, 2019. (Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio)

The announcement comes in the midst of ongoing protests following the killing of George Floyd. In Ithaca, protests have included criticism of the Ithaca Police Department and the District Attorney for their treatment of people of color.

Myrick said the decision to review policing and public safety was “long overdue” and was both “personal and professional” for him. It’s also now required in a state law signed last week by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. It threatens to withhold state funds from communities that fail to upgrade police policies.

The Mayor said the process is necessary now for two reasons. First, police around the country, including in Ithaca, have lost the confidence of those they are supposed to serve.

“Most particularly because over the last five years video footage of numerous encounters has made evident what black communities have felt for generations – that we were more likely to be the victims of police violence,” Myrick said.

The second reason is the financial crisis. During the pandemic, the City of Ithaca has lost significant sales tax revenue.

The mayor called the process a reinvention of public safety that will include town hall meetings, canvassing, and outreach to a variety of organizations, including the Police Benevolent Association, Black Lives Matter and neighboring municipalities.

The process is to happen in conjunction with a similar county-wide evaluation led by county Administrator Jason Molino and Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne.

Myrick stated the review will produce three results; a review and reform of policing policies, including but not limited to Use of Force policies; funding for alternatives to policing; and “continued de-militarization” of the police force.

Ithaca has a SWAT force. Myrick’s statement did not commit to eliminating it. Instead he spoke of a reexamination of how and when it is used.