August 25, 2014

Mayor Outlines Proposed Changes for Ithaca Police Department as Internal Review Concludes

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In response to concerns about police-community relations, Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 has created a new set of guidelines for the Ithaca Police Department — including having cameras on every officer and police vehicle.

“The incident has drawn a great deal of community concern,” Myrick said. “I believe, given the current state of affairs in Ferguson, [Missouri], and a long history of violence and mistrust between the police and the black community that concern is understandable.”

Myrick’s seven-point plan, which he believes will bring the IPD into “a more robust model of policing,” was created with input from various sectors of the local community, he said.

“Over the past several weeks, I’ve met repeatedly with parents, teens, religious leaders, members of the Common Council, community leaders and the leadership of the police department,” Myrick said. “I’ve also spoken with peers in other communities and reviewed the latest literature on standards of operations in the Police Department.”

The first provision calls for Ithaca to fund body-worn cameras for all officers and dashboard cameras for all police cars, a step that aims to reduce the use of police force and bring a greater level of accountability to the police department, as well as to serve as an “evidentiary benefit” for officers.

“[Cameras] can decrease the amount of time our officers spend filling out paperwork and increase the amount of time they spend on the street. They also increase the odds that cases end in guilty pleas,” the plan says.

The second point requires all new hires to establish Ithaca as their primary place of residence “within one year of hire of their hiring.” “Officers who live in the community that they serve will be uniquely invested in our community, better familiar with and to the citizens they have chosen to serve and protect, and best able to respond quickly in emergency situations,” Myrick said in the plan.

The plan also calls for several new institutions for the department, including a “Community Action Team,” a downtown outreach social worker and a physical district office on the west end of the City. The CAT will be a team of two officers that work outside of the typical patrol rotation without a beat or a fixed schedule, selected to provide increased flexibility, response time and proactivity, according to Myrick.

“If there is a rash of burglaries on the West End, they can supplement our patrols in that area,” the plan states. “If there are out-of-control parties on East and South Hill when students return in the fall, they can supplement our patrols in that area.”

The social worker position and district office aim to give community members better access to IPD, especially for those dealing with addiction, unemployment, homelessness and mental illness.

Finally, the plan includes a 10 percent increase in police staffing — a goal that will be achieved by hiring three more officers by the end of 2014 — and improved outreach to local schools and community events.

“These steps build trust between the community and the Ithaca Police Department,” the plan says. “That trust is an invaluable tool. It can lead to more tips to IPD, which will result in more criminals being taken off the street. It also leads to less fear, less violence between the Department and the Community.”

Myrick said he hopes the plan will greatly improve IPD as a whole.

“I believe that this plan, once implemented, will greatly enhance the ability of the Ithaca Police Department to deliver high quality, community oriented services,” Myrick said. “It will turn an already professional and effective department into a national model for community engagement.”