After reports last fall that the Ithaca Police Department was “dangerously under-staffed,” the City of Ithaca and IPD have aimed to mitigate officer shortages.
Ithaca Mayor Robert Cantelmo grad told The Sun that the renewed union contract between the city and IPD as well as a new chief of police have helped facilitate the increase in hiring.
IPD’s staffing issues were highlighted in 2023 when Ithaca Police Union President Tom Condzella said that the IPD had only 38 officers, down over 50 percent from just two decades ago.
“In less than a month, since I’ve taken office as mayor, we’ve sworn in four new police officers,” Cantelmo said. “Back in 2022 when I first joined the council, we had 15 or 17 vacancies in the roster.”
The new labor contract negotiated in October between the IPD and the city increased pay and added additional health benefits for its officers. Cantelmo also cited Ithaca’s new police chief as an important factor in the IPD’s renewal.
Thomas Kelly, the new Ithaca chief of police filled a nearly three-year vacancy in the agency. Kelly said engaging the IPD further in the community is one of his top priorities.
“For Ithaca specifically, not having a chief for a few years and not knowing what the future of IPD looked like certainly impacted the department,” Kelly said.
Kelly also described IPD staffing shortages reflect nationwide trends in police staffing.
“This is one of those careers that was very challenging 20 years ago to get into with so many people competing for positions,” Kelly said. “But certainly across the country in the last few years, along with competitive pay in other jobs, calls for change in law enforcement — which produced a lot of [necessary] conversations — also became a barrier for recruitment.”
Kelly further attributed the difficulty in swiftly filling staffing shortages to the length and complexity of officer training requirements, including physical agility tests, polygraph examinations and psychological exams.
“[The exam evaluations] is an extensive process, which is important because we want to get candidates that are going to be prepared for the academy and the field training program, which is another 16 weeks after the academy,” Kelly said. “For instance, with the three new female officers we just hired two weeks ago, they won’t be ready for patrol until the end of September.”
Despite these hurdles, Kelly described turning a corner in IPD staffing issues.
“There is a renewed interest in coming to work in Ithaca,” Kelly said. “We are progressive in our training and have lots of opportunities for outreach in the community.”
Catherine Zhu ’27 is a Sun Staff Writer and can be reached at [email protected].