Boris Tsang/Sun Senior Photographer

On Tuesday night, Tompkins County legislators voted to replace the IPD with a reformed justice department.

March 31, 2021

Tompkins County Votes to Pass the Reimagining Public Safety Plan

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The Tompkins County Legislature voted Tuesday to pass the Reimagining Public Safety Plan, with the county committing to the 17 police reforms that intend to rebuild trust between law enforcement and residents.

The City of Ithaca and the county created the proposal with various working groups, hearing from various marginalized groups, including communities of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community, to reform public safety. The proposal itself came in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D-N.Y.) June 2020 executive order that required all state municipalities with police forces to review their policies and practices.

The Reimaging Public Safety Plan originally presented 17 undertakings that included revising the civil service exam process and developing a public safety community dashboard. 

But the recommendation to replace the Ithaca Police Department with both unarmed and armed workers has received the most attention. The city will vote on this recommendation Wednesday. 

The vote passed 11-2, with only two representatives who voted against the resolution, Legislator Mike Sigler (R-6th District) and Legislator Glenn Morey (R-9th District).

Sigler echoed concerns that police officers and the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association have expressed throughout March. The IPBA has accused the proposal of being a form of union busting, referencing the possibility of the IPBA to lose members because of the proposal, and objected to excluding police officers from the process of drafting the proposal.  

“[Executive Order 203] didn’t say we are not going to listen to the police too,” Sigler said. “It didn’t say we are just going to listen to marginalized voices exclusively. I’m telling you, the police feel like basically that’s what’s been done. They have not been heard.”

But Legislator Henry Granison (D-3rd District) emphasized that law enforcement had the chance to provide input into the plan. Daniel Klein (D-7th District) added that many of the recommendations, apart from the first recommendation that calls for a new department, are goals that law enforcement support.

Before the resolution passed, the legislature passed an amendment to remove undertaking 13, which gives the SWAT Mobile Command Vehicle from the IPD to the emergency response department. Instead, the legislature agreed that the county will analyze the usefulness of the SWAT vehicle, which stores equipment for the SWAT team in cases like an active shooter or a bomb threat, and administrators use it as a command center.

The legislature passed another recommendation that Granison put forth to develop an outreach plan, connecting law enforcement and residents. Granison disagreed with some legislators’ concerns that Undertaking 7 — developing a community healing plan to address trauma — was redundant to his proposed undertaking.

“I see trauma as going in the past, dealing with past events and trying to heal that,” Granison said. “Outreach for me is trying to go forward and trying to reach out and educate people about what [the police] does.” 

In addition to these undertakings, the legislature resolved to directly involve the community as the county carries out these recommendations.

The Ithaca Common Council will vote on the resolution Wednesday at 6 p.m. If the council approves the resolution, the city will send the plan to the governor, and the City of Ithaca will begin to reshape law enforcement.