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New acting Ithaca police chief says main goal is stability within the department

 Ted Schwartz is the acting chief of the Ithaca police department
Megan Zerez
Ithaca Mayor Laura Lewis appointed Ted Schwartz as acting chief of the Ithaca Police Department after former acting Chief John Joly announced he would take an indefinite leave of absence.

Ithaca's current acting police chief, Lieutenant Ted Schwartz, has been on the force for over a decade. But he said his first few weeks in his new role have gone by in a whirlwind. Schwartz said a big priority of his is to improve retention and morale among existing officers.

"People [in the police department] don't mind when things are tough," Schwartz said. "But people need to think that everything is fair and consistent."

Ithaca's landmark police reform initiative, Reimagining Public Safety, is somewhat of an elephant in the room. Police union leaders have said progress may be limited until the department has a permanent leadership.

Schwartz admits he isn’t fully up to speed yet on the latest reports. But he said he does support certain reforms, like more officer wellness programs.

The report also recommends more cooperation with unarmed first responders, like social workers. Schwartz said IPD already regularly works with social workers. But he said staffing issues for both outreach workers and police officers have hindered progress.

"We would say that they're probably not enough [social workers]. And I know oftentimes, [social workers] will call us when they're in a situation where they don't feel comfortable," Schwartz said. "And we're not always able to meet them at the speed that we should either. So, again, it kind of goes back to staffing for both them and for us."

Schwartz’ predecessor, John Joly, is suing the city and mayor. In documents obtained by the Ithaca Voice, Joly alleged that the city discriminated against him because he is white.

Schwartz declined to comment on the allegations.

Schwartz said he has agreed to serve as acting chief for six months. He said he would consider staying on longer if necessary.

Ithaca is currently in its second attempt of hiring a permanent chief. In an initial search last year, Mayor Laura Lewis appointed former acting Chief John Joly to the job, but quickly rescinded the offer after complaints from common council members.