August 28, 2014

Ithaca Police Union Criticizes Mayor’s Proposed Reforms

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Members of the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association — a union that represents members of the IPD — criticized Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick’s ’09 plan to reform the city’s police department in a response the organization released Thursday.

On Monday, Myrick proposed eight changes to the city’s police force, including a 10 percent increase in staffing, a mandatory body camera for all officers and a city residency requirement that would require all officers to live in the city.

In a statement, Officer John Joly, president of the association, listed the association’s grievances with Myrick’s proposed reforms, claiming the mayor failed to acknowledge the force’s “excellent job” of serving the Ithaca community.

“The level of restraint, compassion, training and professionalism that the officers of the Ithaca Police Department demonstrate every single day far exceeds that provided by any surrounding agency,” Joly said.

The mayor issued his “Plan for Excellence in Policing” as a result of an Aug. 9 incident in which an IPD sergeant pulled his gun on two unarmed black teenagers. The officer’s actions were later found to be in accordance with police protocol, Myrick announced Monday after an internal police review.

Joly said that imposing a residency requirement for all Ithaca police officers would be “a slap in the face,” because it suggests that officers who live in the City are more invested in their work.

“The notion that resident officers would have a quicker response time is also absurd, since officers rarely, if ever, are called to immediately respond from home,” Joly said.

In his plan, Myrick said that residential police officers maintain a unique sense of familiarity and community with the citizens that they are protecting.

“Officers who live in the community that they serve will be uniquely invested in our community … and best able to respond quickly in emergency situations,” Myrick said.

The PBA also called Myrick’s plan to increase staff “misleading,” claiming that the IPD has been the target of a 13 percent staff reduction since 2011.

“The mayor and City Council voted to remove the nine positions from the 2013 budget,” Joly said. “This decision was made by the mayor despite pleas from … community members and business owners not to cut these positions.”

Despite their numerous criticisms against Myrick’s plan, the PBA said that body cameras are “certainly” a topic that the IPD should explore.

The cameras — intended to increase accountability among the police force — would be placed on the person of every police officer and the dashboard of every vehicle, according to Myrick’s proposed plan.

“Body cameras have a civilizing effect,” Myrick said. “Recording each interaction will bring a greater level of accountability to our police-community interactions.”

However, the PBA noted that an already understaffed police staff would have insufficient time to review camera footage.

“The PBA is concerned that if there is not sufficient staff for policing, who would be tasked with reviewing, managing and archiving all of the video,” PBA said.