Ithaca Police station stock

Dear Ithaca Police Benevolent Association,

Like many other Ithacans, I’ve watched with dismay as I’ve seen the IPBA Facebook fill up with media and language that I recognize from police unions in other towns and cities. I see you criticizing individual media outlets and reporters that you don’t like. I see treasurer Mike Meskill wearing a Thin Blue Line cap in fundraising videos — blacking out the American flag to argue that it is police, rather than community or shared purpose, that keeps America together. And I see you wildly mixing the financial and safety concerns of your members — the core of your mission as I understand it — with a public-facing narrative that crime is overwhelming the city because of a lack of police. In your August 31 post, you asked the “silent majority” in Ithaca to contact our representatives, using the same language that Richard Nixon did to rally support for the Vietnam War.

Your followers respond to your increasingly strident and anti-Ithaca rhetoric. On your post complaining about protests on August 6, a heating and cooling technician from Covert wrote that “A gathering of veteran patriots could clear the way for you but be mindful that while liberals and snowflakes may tolerate domestic terrorism we will not and the necessary amount of force to gain compliance will be utilized.” Your own ex-officer Greg Firman offered to bring retired police to push aside protesters in a now-deleted post. When you rail against your own citizens, you don’t provoke compliance with your wishes. You feed into a narrative created by Tom Reed and reinforced by Trump that there is something wrong with Ithaca, that it needs to be disciplined or suppressed. Little could be worse for the relationship between the police and the public. 

I know you have some supporters who are Ithacans — although many of your strongest supporters on Facebook are not — but I want to remind you of the cultural and political divide between these statements and the Ithacans I know. We depend as a community on our people of color and immigrants. We offer a tolerant and open space to the students and visitors that come to town. We are a small city under substantial economic pressure, and we understand that suffering creates crime that police can’t prevent or “solve.” Lastly, we know that there is a racial divide in Ithaca, a basic and violent unfairness that is very old, very complex, and which remains to this day in many forms, including policing. As you well know, this is a murderous injustice, and the deaths of Black people at the hands of police offend not just our shared sense of decency but our belief in the rule of law.

Luckily, we have some powerful resources here. We are lucky to have Svante Myrick, who won reelection in 2019 with an overwhelming 76% of the vote and whose care and consideration keeps the city together. His commitment to releasing video, sharing disciplinary records, and communicating with the population consistently benefits the police department. We have a strong community of Ithacans committed to racial justice, who will not allow the kinds of inequities that make other communities so violent, disaffected, and grim. We have a history of Black excellence and Black love in the city that spans from Alex Haley to Bernie Milton to Rediet Abebe, the first black woman ever to get a Ph. D. in computer science at Cornell, who graduated last year. Underpinning these strengths are our cultural traditions: openness, a struggle for peace through justice, and a love for difference. We do not have to arrest our way out of 2020. And we shouldn’t! Doing that would sacrifice so much of what makes Ithaca flourish. 

Protestors are making demands of you because we need daily, serious change in the way police officers think about the community. I have seen positive, caring responses to the challenges that face us from some officers, but I don’t see it in the IPBA. Right now, you have the ability to encounter the protests with resentment and anger; you have the liberty to rail against the mayor during contract negotiations. But if you do, please, don’t tell yourself that you’re doing this on behalf of the Ithaca community. Don’t pretend protests are abstract “civil unrest.” They are a message. We are not silent. We are speaking to you through the ballot box and in the streets. 

Sincerely,

Nick Admussen

Ithaca

(11) comments

Sean Pegan

"I speak for the silent majority" says one person...

Robin Cisne

He speaks for me. I find the hostile, combative attitude the IPBA takes toward the public very disturbing. It seems they do not see themselves as public servants, but as resentful overlords.

Dana Sue

He also speaks for me. I want police to be held accountable. And I want common council to fund and expand services for Ithaca’s working class.

Nathanael Nerode

P.S. I have lived in Tompkins County my entire life.

Nathanael Nerode

He speaks for me too. I've dealt with plenty of responsible police who acted as public servants. And I want them to have good pay and working conditions.

The IPBA leadership attitude, by contrast, is terrifyingly corrupt, and unless they change their attitude, which is openly hostile to the public they are supposed to serve, I think the city should refuse to deal with them and lock out any union members. Dirty IPD officers have exhibited aggressive, violent attitudes towards members of the public several times in the last few years, and IPBA seems to want to protect these bully cops.

The public wants the bullies out, before these "bad apples" spoil the whole department.

Gay Nicholson

What a wonderful summary of how so many of us feel about our beloved community. As a taxpayer of many decades, I want the police and sheriff's departments to understand that we won't employ bullies and racists. Take your hate elsewhere; we don't want you as employees.

Emily Hopkins

Excellent letter. He speaks for me too. Police are public servants and should do their job humbly and respectfully, like everyone else (except artists, singers, and comics.)

Frynella Higgenbothom

He speaks for me too.

suellen dragon

He speaks for me too.

Teddy Morris-Knower

Thank you for sharing! This speaks for me. The "us vs. them" mentality that is propagated by the IPBA, and police unions across America, is not my vision of an inclusive Ithaca.

Franklins Ghost

You are only a majority of Ithacans in your own mind. You're the sort of transplant who has flooded Ithaca in the last 50 years and absolutely ruined this city.

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