Just over 12 hours after Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 announced his recommendation that Ithaca Police Acting Chief Pete Tyler take over the full chief of police role, Tyler was in Elmira with the SWAT team responding to a call of a barricaded gunman.
The Ithaca High School graduate, who was born in Brooktondale, was at the scene late on Tuesday night, shortly after Myrick recommended that he be the first person of color to ever lead the Ithaca Police Department. Common Council will have to approve the mayor’s recommendation in December.
“To have the mayor put faith in me as the leader of the department and to continue the good work that we’re already doing,” Tyler said in a brief phone call earlier in the day, “I will say that I’m humbled, I’m proud.”
The vacancy opened up when the previous chief, John Barber, retired in March. Barber said that he fully supported Tyler, who has been with the department for more than 25 years, to assume the role of chief.
Myrick said that watching Tyler’s “leadership after the retirement of Chief Barber through several high profile and challenging incidents, I have become convinced he is the right person for the job.”
Barber said in December of 2016, when he announced he was planning to retire, that he and Tyler had patrolled Ithaca’s streets together as officers in the 1990s.
“There’s a lot of people that have helped me along the way,” Tyler said, mentioning Barber. “The people that are working with me right now, they’re the ones that make my job easy.”
Tyler said his top priority is finding a way to reduce the number of people dying from drug overdoses in the community.
“Heroin is a huge problem in our city,” he said, “that’s not going away.”
“Of course, we’re guided by federal, state and local law and typically, we’re seen as the enforcement component,” Tyler continued, “but as we all know, you can’t enforce your way out of that problem.”
The acting chief also said continuing frequent and sustained interactions with the Ithaca community is vital.
“I think there’s an entire generation of kids who have not had an opportunity to interact as much as they can with police officers and see who they are,” he said. Police, Tyler said, “have a very challenging job and I want an opportunity to work with kids who are in our schools and do more in our schools … whether that’s conversation or creating different ways we can engage.”
Myrick said the department will “place special emphasis on community crisis and implicit bias training” this year” while continuing standard training.
Tyler is a volunteer firefighter, certified emergency medical technician and a U.S. Army veteran, Myrick said.
Common Council will vote on Myrick’s recommendation on Dec. 6.