Ithaca, NY – The mayor of Ithaca has unveiled a plan to eradicate the city’s police force and to replace it with a new Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety.
Under Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick’s proposal, the new department would be overseen by a civilian leader, The Post-Standard reported.
Half of the agency would consist of unarmed “community solution workers,” while the other half would be comprised of armed “public safety workers” tasked with investigating criminal offenses, according to the paper.
“The presence of guns, the presence of a militarized force triggers people who are carrying past traumas,” Myrick reasoned during a recent interview with NPR.
Current Ithaca Police Department (IPD) officers would need to reapply in order to become a part of the Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety, The Cornell Daily Sun reported.
After abolishing the IPD and its 63 sworn officer positions, the city would use the agency’s $12.5 million budget to fund Myrick’s new agency, according to The Post-Standard.
“The men and women of the Ithaca Police Department have performed their duties with admirable skill and professionalism, but for too long the answer to every human behavioral problem in our city has been to call the police,” the mayor told The Post-Standard.
He alleged the current structure has made addiction, mental illness, and homelessness problems worse.
“The thing to do is to start over,” the mayor told NPR.
City officials said building a new department from the ground up should help heal the rift between law enforcement and black and brown communities, according to The Cornell Daily Sun.
“It charts a very clear path forward,” Myrick said of his plan. “It is clear, from the focus groups, from the surveys, from the data from call types itself, everything is pointing in the same direction: that we need a new form of safety and equity.”
Myrick’s proposal is now up for public comment, The Post-Standard reported.
It would require legislative approval before it could be enacted.
The mayor’s effort to abolish and replace the IPD was the result of a statewide police reform effort New York Governor Andrew Cuomo authorized by executive order in 2020, The Post-Standard reported.
Cuomo has threatened to pull state funding from any law enforcement agency that fails to come up with a “reinvention” criminal justice reform plan by April 1.
Ithaca Police Benevolent Association (IPBA) President Thomas Condzella denounced Myrick’s plan to eliminate IPD during a press conference on Feb. 26, The Ithaca Voice reported.
Condzella said the proposal puts the community’s safety at risk and called on the Ithaca Common Council to vote against it.
“We cannot call this anything other than an attempt to destroy a highly-functioning law enforcement agency and a way for the City of Ithaca to circumvent the labor agreement with the PBA,” the union leader declared. “This is a case of union-busting, plain and simple.”
“We also hope that the Common Council will not endorse such poor treatment of any of the city’s public servants,” Condzella continued. “We are open to discussion, but we vehemently oppose this plan as proposed by the city administration, under the direction of Mayor Svante Myrick.”
He said it would be an “understatement” to say the rank-and-file “feel betrayed” and angry about the mayor’s proposal, The Ithaca Voice reported.
“The city’s Common Council is being asked to adopt this proposal in short order, by the end of March, so that it can be delivered to the governor’s office by April 1, 2021,” he said, referencing Cuomo’s deadline. “This Executive Order is being used to implement changes that are unnecessary, unprecedented, and likely extremely dangerous.”
Condzella said he wanted to make it “abundantly clear” that the IPBA embraces change and recognizes “the need and importance of capitalizing on every opportunity for improving relationships with all persons of our community, especially those who are marginalized,” The Ithaca Voice reported.
He said union members have been disturbed by the “perception…some people in the community” have of them – especially those who feel they have been degraded and dehumanized.
“Our membership is welcoming and open to dialog with those who feel that way,” Condzella reiterated.