- By Dominick Recckio
Wednesday Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca announced a collaborative approach to public safety reform and reinvention. The collaboration will bring together County and City leadership and their respective public safety departments, including the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Ithaca Police Department. The County and City will be working with the Center for Policing Equity, a national organization that partners with police departments on data-driven interventions. The group also will engage other Tompkins County municipalities with public safety departments throughout the process.
All municipalities with police departments in New York State must adopt a plan for police reform and reinvention by April 1, 2021, per an executive order. Guidance shared with municipalities can be found on the Governor’s website. The guidance includes that municipalities must address policing functions, standards, and strategies; fostering community-oriented leadership, culture, and accountability; and recruiting and supporting excellent and diverse personnel.
When assessing the process for developing plans, County and City conversations focused on how an approach involving both organizations could be more engaging and lead to consistencies across jurisdictions. Throughout the process there will be various opportunities for the community to engage in conversations and share perspectives.
Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Chairwoman of the Tompkins County Legislature stated, “This collaboration will allow us to come to a more equitable and consistent public safety system throughout our community. With the Sheriff’s office and IPD being our two largest local police forces, we’ll be able to make real inroads addressing tensions between the community and police. Immense tragedies have impacted the entire country, and this is an opportunity to listen, reflect, and act toward equity in policing and real systemic change.”
City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick remarked, “This is not a new crisis. The national attention on police killings of unarmed black people and the global movements that we’re seeing are demanding that governments and police departments take serious action for change, and we’re rising to that challenge in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Having a collaborative approach and engaging with the Center for Policing Equity will give us more tools to build on work done to date and respond thoroughly to community input.”
The County, City, and Center for Policing Equity hosted a remote meet-and-greet for their teams on August 27 and will meet regularly in working groups and engage members of the community and other municipalities and their public safety departments throughout the process. The County and City teams include employees as well as community members.
Ithaca City Police Chief Dennis Nayor stated, “Engaging with the community is critical for effective and equitable policing. I’m looking forward to this process giving our teams the opportunity to listen to community members and use data to make the changes needed so we can best protect and serve everyone. It’s our goal to build stronger and safer communities, and by working collaboratively we can make a difference together.”
Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne stated, “It’s our goal to build trust so we can best serve our community. Taking a data-driven approach will allow us to take a look at the work our departments have done to date and at what more we can do to be more equitable. At the end of the day we want to make sure people in Tompkins County are safe, and we’re open to making changes to ensure that equitable practices are applied in our work.”
County Legislator Rich John, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, added, “Our community has put so much effort toward a more compassionate system of justice — we’ve reduced our jail population consistently over time and worked hard to find alternatives to incarceration. This unique collaboration will help us to build on that work and to find new ways to make continuous improvements in policing and public safety.”
Both Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca have web pages where information on the collaborative will be shared throughout the process, along with details on how community members can participate and provide feedback.