The Ithaca Police Department will terminate an officer directly responsible for handling sex crimes in the department’s investigative division, the Mayor’s office announced in a press release Thursday. An internal IPD investigation found a slew of failures to sufficiently investigate a range of cases in the division over the last 10 years.
While the press release noted that the division inadequately investigated a variety of cases, sex offenses were among the most concerning.
“[T]he impacts of these investigatory failures were by definition deeply traumatic for victims who came to the IPD seeking help and justice, and found none,” the press release read.
It is unclear what other types of cases the IPD’s investigative division failed to thoroughly investigate. Police Chief Dennis R. Nayor did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.
The IPD is also asking individuals who previously filed a complaint — particularly ones involving a sex offense — to come forward if they felt their complaint went unanswered.
Senior investigator Christine Barksdale has been in charge of handling sex crime inquiries — she has served as a member of the Tompkins County law enforcement community for approximately 25 years, as reported by The Ithaca Voice. The press release did not explicitly name the officer involved in these investigations. Barksdale did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.
A change in leadership around six months ago within the IPD’s investigative division first sparked an audit into the division’s practices, according to The Ithaca Voice. This audit examined what cases were assigned to investigators and how many of those cases were closed.
Ultimately, the audit found that one investigator had accumulated over 200 open cases, and 80 of these cases were related to sex offenses. A majority of these cases either had sparse or no notes, showing an absence of investigation.
The IPD provided the findings of this audit to the Tompkins County District Attorney and New York Attorney General, saying it would cooperate in any future investigations either office may choose to pursue. District Attorney Matthew Van Houten declined a request for comment and the New York Office of the Attorney General did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.
Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 said in the press release that he was disappointed with the outcomes from this investigation.
“I am shocked and saddened by these revelations, which can easily erode public confidence in the IPD,” Myrick said. “I do, however, draw encouragement from the confidence that I have in the IPD’s current leadership … and new policies established by new leadership in the Investigations Division, under which the IPD is proactively ensuring that a failure of this sort will never happen again.”
In light of this internal probe into the investigative division’s practices, the IPD enacted multiple reforms within the department. Some of these reforms include holding daily briefings, providing updates on cases every two weeks, tracking the timeline of all cases and hosting monthly supervision meetings with each investigator.
Additionally, investigators will no longer specialize in a certain unit, such as juvenile or sex crimes. All investigators will receive training to handle a range of cases to ensure that work is evenly distributed across the investigative division.