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Ithaca adopts first police reforms based on Reimagining Public Safety report

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Ithaca adopted the police reforms nearly two years after former Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered municipalities to adopt a police reform plan. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)

Two years after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, the City of Ithaca will adopt some of the police reforms proposed in its Reimagining Public Safety report.

A new civilian leader will oversee Ithaca’s police department, plus any unarmed first responders the city may hire in the future. There are no significant changes to the existing police force; IPD will still have a chief of police and maintain the same number of armed officers.

The Ithaca Common Council voted to accept the Reimagining Public Safety report and adopt some, but not all of its recommendations. Those include more training and technology for police officers and updates to the city’s police data collection system.

Alderperson Phoebe Brown said police reforms are long overdue, especially for Ithaca’s Black community.

"To know that people like me have been hearing the word 'wait' for as long as we can remember," Brown said. "It is imperative that we move on."

The Council will convene an ad hoc committee to discuss the report's other proposed police reforms.

Alderpersons Cynthia Brock and Jeffrey Barken were the only two Council members who voted not to accept the Reimagining Public Safety report or the proposed reforms, citing ethical concerns.

Brock said she supports the reforms themselves, but she opposed the resolution in part because non-profits, particularly the Center for Policing Equity and one of its consultants, had too much influence in the Reimagining Public Safety working group's report. 

"Outside groups were brought in and contributed significantly to this report. Outside groups which were neither screened, [and] they were not hired by the city," Brock said.

Brock also has alleged former mayor Svante Myrick improperly solicited funds from other non-profits to compensate leaders of the Reimagining Public Safety effort.

Earlier this year, Brockrequested the county open an ethics investigation into the city’s police reform effort and former mayor Svante Myrick. That investigation is ongoing.