Common Council May Push Back on Deciding to Replace Ithaca Police Department and Focus on Other Recommendations Instead

Ithaca City and Tompkins County Officials have made changes to the recommendations in the Reimagining Public Safety Draft Report.

Mayor Svante Myrick and County Administrator presented the updates to the document at a special Common Council meeting on Wednesday night.

The report now specifies that if the Common Council approves the recommendation to replace the City of Ithaca Police Department with a Community Solutions and Public Safety department, then the police currently employed will definitely have jobs in the new department. 

Council member, Seph Murtagh, said at first it sounded like the police department would be abolished, but now it seems more like a rebranding.

He questioned if the creation of this new department would be the best way to meet the goals outlined in Executive Order 203.

He said, "And, you know, it kinda seems like we’re proposing to maintain the police in everything but name. And so, I think, it kinda seems to me maybe a simpler approach is just to take the programs and efforts we have already been working on, that seemed to be working, expand them and just hire fewer officers.

One of the programs Murtagh cited is LEAD, or Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program, as an effort that the city could redirect funding to.

All of the Council members are aware that the community has expressed doubts over whether change will come from this Reimagining endeavor, and that the first recommendation to replace the Ithaca police department is overshadowing the other, less controversial recommendations.

Council Member Lewis is proposing that the city focus on the original draft reports recommendations 2 through 19, and put off the decision of founding a new department until a more thorough study is done.

She said, "What I would like to suggest is, rather than create a department, I would suggest using existing data to study the creation of a department and report to common council no later than November one, 2021."

Lewis asked for budget proposals and a structure to be presented to the council as well. These aspects were not included in the original Draft Report. 

Mayor Myrick and County Administrator Molino said some preliminary projections are coming this week. 

You can watch the full special Common Council meeting here.

You can submit feedback and read the draft report here.

The next meeting you can voice your views at is before the Tompkins County Legislature on March 16th, at 5:30pm. It will be livestreamed on the County's  YouTube page. Register to speak at that meeting here.