John R. Barber, a member of the Ithaca Police Department since 1994 and its chief since 2013, said Monday that he will retire next year after nearly three decades in law enforcement. Deputy Chief Peter Tyler will take over as acting chief in March.
“I feel like the agency is in a great place right now — we’re delivering excellent service and I have an excellent staff,” Barber said in an interview with The Sun. “It’s just the right time for me. It’s been a fun ride.”
Barber entered law enforcement as a corrections officer in 1989 and worked in three New York State prisons before joining IPD as a officer in April 1994. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2005, acting deputy chief in 2006, deputy chief in 2007 and acting chief in 2012. In 2013, he became the department’s official chief of police.
“I’ve always planned all along to retire in 2017,” he said. “I’m turning 50 next year and that was my goal: to retire by the time I’m 50.”
Tyler, who has been with the department for about 25 years, will be appointed to acting chief after March 9 — Barber’s last day on the job.
Barber said he and Tyler are close friends and patrolled Ithaca together as officers in the 1990s, adding that Tyler has his full endorsement to lead the department. Barber also said he expects Tyler to assume the role of chief after a period of serving as acting chief.
Barber said he told IPD officers and other staff about six weeks ago that he was planning to retire. Since then, he has been reflecting on his 28 years in law enforcement and said leaving is bittersweet.
“I still love the job, but there’s so much more living to do,” he said. “You’re tied to your phone and you’re always on call [for] those 1 a.m. phone calls. It’s time to disconnect and start the next chapter of my life.”
In addition to spending more time with his granddaughters and other family, Barber, who resides in the Town of Ithaca, said he wants to get out on Cayuga Lake in his boat more. He owns several properties locally and said he plans to work on real estate projects involving those properties.
Barber said in a release that through IPD’s hard work, “coupled with a progressive mindset, we have been able to accomplish many positive changes.”
Those changes, Barber said, include IPD becoming one of eight state-certified SWAT teams earlier this year, bringing back the K-9 program with two dogs and handlers, implementing a body camera program and organizing events where Ithacans can voice concerns or compliments directly to the chief.
While chief, Barber has also hired 26 officers, 22 of whom are still in the IPD ranks, according to the release.
Asked what his biggest challenge was during his years as chief, Barber said he always worried that there were not enough police officers.
“When someone retires, it’s not like you can just hire someone off of the street,” he said.
But, he added, IPD has improved its hiring process greatly and made training one of the department’s highest priorities. IPD officers “are now among the best trained police officers in the region,” Barber said.
According to Barber, the department has also felt the effects of national events involving police, including cases of real or perceived police brutality that attract national media attention.
“Regardless of what occurs, even on the other site of the country, there’s often a ripple effect in our own community,” he said, adding that those events underscore why he has placed an emphasis on community building and transparency at the department.
Barber thanked Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, the Ithaca Common Council and the Community Police Board, among others, for their “service and dedication to our community,” adding that he feels very appreciated by the city.
Barber asked Ithacans to continue to offer their support to IPD and take a moment out of their days to thank a police officer.
“I feel fortunate to have worked in such a progressive city full of amazing people,” he said. “Thank you for allowing me the privilege of being your Chief.”