On Mar. 18, the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County held a virtual Reimagining Public Safety Town hall titled “Lifting Voices of People of Color; While All Are Welcome.”
The meeting was held in conjunction with Baptist Church of Jesus Christ of The Apostolic Faith, Calvary Baptist Church, Tompkins County Veterans Services and Tompkins County Office of Humans Rights.
The Zoom panel was made up of 10 community members and city and county officials; Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick and Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino led the meeting. They were joined by Rev. Ronald Benson, Rev. Nathaniel Wright and Rev. Ken Clarke Sr. as well as J.R. Clairborne, director of Tompkins County Veterans Services, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, chair of the Tompkins County Legislature and former police officer, Brad Nelson.
Sean Eversley Bradwell and Belisa Gonzalez, two Ithaca college professors who were a part of the academic/research group and the communications/community working group of the reimagining initiative, were also on the panel.
One of the main questions from community members was why these changes will take so long to implement, with many expressing a desire for immediate action. There were also questions about the job descriptions of the community solutions workers and plans for racial sensitivity training and better background checks on officers.
Molino said most of the timelines for the project still need to be developed and that this will take time to plan and get resources together.
Myrick admitted that there would be “very little” immediate impact but said the first changes which can be implemented in the coming months will be creating the position of a Director of Public Safety and Community, which a police chief would then report too. Myrick said that under state law, there still must be a police chief, but that the police chief will have to report to this new director position. Currently, Myrick said the search for a new police chief following IPD Police Chief Dennis Mayor's resignation has not begun.
Myrick said another initial step will be designing the job descriptions for “community solutions” officers. He added that the SWAT truck will be transitioned from the police department to the Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response.
Myrick did not give an exact timeline for any of these proposed plans and said that any other changes will be much more gradual.