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Ithaca Takes Up Police Reform, Police Abolition Proposal Included

Ithaca Police Reform Preview WEB

ENDWELL, NY (WSKG) — The City of Ithaca Common Council will vote Wednesday on a series of recommendations as part of its Reimagining Public Safety initiative, including a provision to abolish and replace the Ithaca Police Department.

Councilors will consider amendments to the existing set of recommendations on the floor of the meeting, which is being held entirely via Zoom. 

So far, most councilors have not explicitly said how they will vote on the resolution, especially recommendation one, which calls for the abolition and replacement of the Ithaca Police Department with another agency headed by a civilian. That agency would have two divisions, one with unarmed public “solutions” officers to respond to non-threatening situations such as larceny reports or traffic situations.

The Ithaca Police Benevolent Association, the union for officers, has vehemently opposed the abolition suggestion, even after Mayor Svante Myrick guaranteed all officers remaining in the new department would have collective bargaining rights. Other union groups, including the Ithaca Teachers Association, have also criticized the proposal, calling it a form of union busting.

Meanwhile, activists have alleged the proposal does not go far enough to dismantle what they call a racist system of policing.

The resolution being considered Wednesday is in direct response to a 2020 executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordering municipalities with law enforcement agencies to undergo a review of their practices and procedures to address racial justice and other issues.

Other recommendations in the plan include standardized and improved data reporting on police activity, more civilian oversight of IPD through an existing advisory board, and repurposing of the SWAT truck.

The proposal to redesign the department would could require the passage of a local law by the common council with specifics. If that changes the city’s charter, it would also be subject to a referendum by voters.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and will be streamed through the city’s YouTube page.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.