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Report: Ithaca's police staffing levels 'sufficient' to handle calls

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) — An independent report released Wednesday found that Ithaca’s police staffing levels are “sufficient” to handle the calls the Ithaca Police Department receives. It also found that levels of reported crime remained stable over the past four years. 

The report is part of Ithaca’s Re-imagining Public Safety campaign to reform the city’s police department. A private consulting firm, Matrix, was contracted to perform the study, which analyzed police data from 2016 to 2020. *Data on staffing levels was collected in 2019.

The findings are contrary to messaging from IPD and its labor union, the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association. At October's city budget talks, acting Police Chief John Joly cited a need for additional officers.

During those budget talks, the city made the move to reinstate two police officer positions that had previously been eliminated.

Eric Rosario is part of Re-imagining Public Safety working group. He said that Matrix had done hundreds of similar studies for other police departments.

"We acknowledge that there are diverging viewpoints within our community about policing workload and efficiency in Ithaca, and the Matrix data is just part of the conversation that the Working Group is using to help inform our work," Rosario said.

The report measured "proactive time" or the time police officers spent unoccupied. It found that throughout a typical week, Ithaca's police officers on average spent about 59% of their shift not responding to a call, which is well above the 40% recommended average for a police department in a city of comparable size.

The study also found that an estimated 22% of all calls to 911 within Ithaca could safely be handled by an unarmed response team. Such calls included non-emergency cases like parking complaints, lost property reports, or noise complaints. 

* This story has been updated to provide additional clarity on the data used in the study.