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Retired Ithaca police investigator sues city, state after she was decertified for alleged misconduct

Lawyers for Barksdale filed the case in Tompkins County Supreme Court last Friday.
Megan Zerez
Lawyers for Barksdale filed the case in Tompkins County Supreme Court last Friday.

A retired Ithaca police investigator is suing New York state and the City of Ithaca. In court documents filed last Friday, lawyers said despite misconduct allegations, the investigator retired in good standing. The state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services said otherwise.

Lawyers for longtime Ithaca police investigator Christine Barksdale filed the case last Friday. The suit challenges the state's decision to decertify Barksdale upon her retirement last August.

When a police officer is decertified, it means that person can never again work for a law enforcement agency in New York state — similar to revoking a driver's license. As of January 19, only three IPD officershave faced decertification since 2016.

There area lot of reasons why a police officer might face decertification — they might have lied on a job application, used excessive force, committed a felony or had their performance deemed inadequate. An officer does not need to be convicted of any of those offenses to be decertified — a fact that has been the source of much grievance from statewide police unions.

In Barksdale's situation, the state's case for decertification is based on the fact that she retired as part of a settlement deal in a lawsuit connected to alleged misconduct.

The allegations go back to 2019. In internal documents, Ithaca acting Police Chief John Joly initiated disciplinary action against Barksdale on the grounds that she had failed to "adequately investigate" assigned cases over her 25 years on the job. Most of those cases involve sex abuse.

At the time, Barksdale filed a federal lawsuit against the city to dispute the allegations. In that case, Barksdale's lawyer said IPD leadership did not provide her with enough staff to adequately investigate all assigned cases.

Barksdale also alleged that the disciplinary action was racially motivated on Joly's part — Barksdale was the first Black woman to join IPD's ranks — though state records show she was ultimately unable to meet the burden of proof for that claim.

In late 2021, Barksdale agreed to drop the lawsuit and retire from the force permanently in 2022 after 25 years on the job — the minimum needed to collect a full state pension. In exchange, the city withdrew the disciplinary charges against her and allowed her to retire with benefits.

Barksdale retired last August. In a news clip, she’s seen walking out of Ithaca police HQ as her coworkers smile and salute.

But days later, the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, which oversees police departments across the state, told IPD it could not allow Barksdale to retire in good standing.

Even though the settlement terms cleared Barksdale’s record, state officials said ultimately, she retired in connection to misconduct allegations, which is grounds for decertification.

Now, Barksdale is suing again to challenge the state’s decision.

Regardless of the outcome of this case, Barksdale is still eligible to receive her full pension and benefits, even if she can’t work as a police officer.