Acting Chief of Police Ted Schwartz

Lt. Ted Schwartz has been appointed as the new Acting Chief of Police at the Ithaca Police Department while the city continues working with an independent search firm to hire a permanent police chief.

On May 9 Mayor Laura Lewis announced the appointment of Lieutenant Ted Schwartz as the new Acting Chief of Police at the Ithaca Police Department. Schwartz will be taking the place of former acting chief John Joly — who is pursuing a lawsuit against the city for subjecting him to a hostile work environment.

Mayor Lewis announced that Joly was her final pick for the permanent Chief position. However, immediately after the announcement several members of the Common Council came out publicly against the Mayor’s nomination of Joly.

In an interview following the rejection of Joly, Fourth Ward Common Council member Jorge DeFendini said, “Particularly with the reimagining public safety process, we've had a lot of head butting with the acting chief and those conflicts have led to a lot of uncertainty and misinformation regarding the reimagining public process.”

Mayor Lewis revoked Joly’s nomination and re-started the search process in response to the criticism.

Ithaca has been without a permanent Chief of Police since former Chief Dennis Nayor resigned in the spring of 2021. The lack of stable leadership has had cascading effects on the Department from low staffing levels to worsening morale among officers.

According to President of the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association Tom Condzella, the patrol division should be staffed with 45 officers but is currently staffed with 24.

In February, Condzella said that the lack of permanent leadership “creates an unstable work environment.” He added that officers look to the chief for direction and leadership. Without someone in that position to keep the department flowing in the right direction, “there’s a serious trickle-down effect.”

The appointment of Schwartz will bring some much-needed stability to the department, and it comes as the city is working with a California-based search firm — Public Sector Search and Consulting — to hire a permanent Chief of Police. In January, the Common Council allocated $57,500 to pay for outside assistance in the search process.

The search firm describes itself as a “boutique-style national search firm focused solely on recruiting top police executives for our clients.” According to their website, “In 60% of our searches, the hiring authority selected a candidate from a traditionally underrepresented group.”

The City of Syracuse and Albany worked with the firm to hire a Chief of Police in 2018, and the City of Beacon in Dutchess County hired the firm for the same reason in 2020.

According to a statement released by City Hall, “This interim assignment is expected to last through the conclusion of the ongoing search for a permanent Police Chief. The search firm contracted by the City has posted the official recruitment announcement of the permanent position this week.”

Following the announcement, Mayor Lewis said “Lt. Schwartz’s long and distinguished service with the IPD ideally suits him to fill this role, and I am deeply grateful to him for doing so. This appointment is a crucial and concrete step towards maintaining IPD’s operational integrity and the safety of the public that will allow for a smooth transition to a permanent Chief.”

In a recent interview, Lewis said that she is “really grateful to Lieutenant Schwartz for agreeing to step into the acting chief role.” She continued by saying that the appointment will bring “stability to the department and safety to the community.”

Schwartz was born and raised in Ithaca and was hired by the Ithaca Police Department in 2011. During his time as Operations Sergeant, he oversaw the training division for IPD, K9 Program, Fleet, and Special Event Details. He was then promoted to Lieutenant and supervised the midnight Patrol Platoon until he was re-assigned to Lieutenant of Investigations in March 2020.

In response to being named the city’s new acting Chief of Police Schwartz said, “I look forward to leading the department in this critical time of need, and offering stability until a permanent chief is selected.” Schwartz also said “I’m not gonna say never,” when asked if he had any interest in being the permanent Chief.

According to Schwartz, members of city administration reached out to him asking if he would consider taking the position. He said that he was motivated to take the position after receiving “a lot of support from coworkers at the department,” along with support from the community and the city.

Regarding the city’s relationship with the department, Schwartz said “I think it’s trending recently in a very positive direction. I think that everyone is optimistic and hopeful. I think that from both perspectives, we’re hoping that there has been a reset and the relationship we have we can build on and enhance.”

He continued by saying that “it’s been an incredibly difficult time for police officers in Ithaca for the last three or four years,” and that “when I became a police officer I never had the intention or desire to be a chief, but as this situation that we found ourselves in evolved, I felt it was the right thing to do.”

Following his appointment, Schwartz said that “my responsibilities went from being enormous to unfathomable.” He continued saying, “Now that I'm the Acting Chief  I'm responsible for the entire agency and all the divisions and there are a lot of moving parts there.”

When asked how he would prepare for the substantial difference in responsibilities, Schwartz said that his years of experience at the department have prepared him for the job.

“I've had the opportunity to work across a broad spectrum of the department. Everyone starts in patrols and I was a supervisor in the patrol division. I’ve also supervised the Training Division at one point, which is a very administrative job, managing budgets, managing personnel, and scheduling, as well as my time and investigations. So all that cumulatively, I think is going to help me,” Schwartz said.

He continued saying, “In the interim, I will be examining different avenues to support the great officers currently at IPD as well as continuing our ongoing recruitment of the best candidates for our vacant police officer positions in partnership with the City Administration."

According to Schwartz, “Our civil service test has just been announced; the signup period is active on the city website. So we're gonna be looking to recruit full steam ahead, going through the summer before the deadline closes in early August.” He also said that taking care of the officers already at the department will be a top priority.

“We have a lot of great officers that work at IPD. And we need to take care of them because when they're at their best they're gonna be able to give their best to the community and that's something we really want to focus on,” Schwartz said.

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