Stabbing Homicide Near The Ithaca Commons, PBA Aims To Partner With Common Council To Address IPD Staffing Emergency
ITHACA, N.Y., November 1st, 2022 – Violent crime in the City of Ithaca continues and staffing levels at the Ithaca Police Department are at critical levels. Despite the attempts of the PBA to shed light on the issues surrounding staffing and violent crime, City Hall has remained mostly silent and has offered no real solutions even in the wake of the recent stabbing murder that occurred just blocks from the Ithaca Commons shortly after bar close.
Some in City Hall, including the Acting Mayor, will not even acknowledge that the staffing emergency at the IPD exists. With only 23 police officers remaining in a Patrol Division that should be staffed with a minimum of 36 police officers, to provide 24/7 police coverage to a City of 32,000 plus, the department is dangerously understaffed. In the last 18 months the Ithaca Police Department has hired one new police officer. In that same time period, the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office has hired 15 deputies and unlike IPD, they haven’t had to offer sign on bonuses or incentives. Police recruiting is a national problem, but it is a problem that has been magnified for the IPD. While the PBA commends the 7 members of the Common Council who voted to restore funding to 7 vacant police officer positions that were on the Acting Mayor’s chopping block in her proposed 2023 budget, there is much more work to be done. The PBA remains optimistic that with continued partnership with the community and the Common Council, we can still achieve a better and safer future for Ithaca.
Thomas Condzella, President of the Ithaca PBA, said “we don't have enough Ithaca Police Officers to effectively police the City and keep our community safe…it's just that simple.” According to Condzella, he has offered to partner with the Acting Mayor in a joint recruitment statement, highlighting the $20,000 recruitment incentive for lateral transfer police officers while also together publicly addressing the looming concern that the Ithaca Police Department is still slated to be replaced by a new department, in name and in structure. He added that “the Acting Mayor needs to make a strong commitment to public safety and the future of the Ithaca Police Department, just like the PBA and the Police Officers have made a strong public commitment to reimagining public safety”. Condzella said the PBA continues to make progress in reform efforts and added that he is excited about an upcoming series of community round tables that are being facilitated by the PBA and the NYS AFL-CIO, a labor organization that represents 2.5 million workers and their families in New York State, including Ithaca Police Officers and many other workers in the City. He also said that it’s important that a clear distinction is made between “Recommendation 1”, the proposal to abolish the IPD that was personally written into the plan by the former mayor which has caused much controversy, and the rest of the reimagining initiative which the PBA supports most if not all of.
Condzella said “until we can walk forward together, hand in hand, as partners”, he fears nothing will change. Acting Mayor Lewis has to date declined to partner with the PBA to work towards meaningful solutions including a joint public statement to put an end to the political rhetoric. According to Condzella, aside from the $20,000 incentive that has yet to attract a single lateral transfer police officer, Lewis refuses to discuss any other solutions including a successor labor agreement to the current contract which expires at the end of 2023. He added that the unwillingness of the Acting Mayor to assist the PBA with repairing the damage that has been done has left many of his members, including himself, extremely disappointed.
"There are prospective applicants out there that still believe IPD is going to be abolished and at times, I question it myself” said Condzella. “Our once excellent reputation has been destroyed in the law enforcement community in New York State and beyond and we are scrambling to repair it. This is not how we want to serve our community but we’re doing the best we can. We simply can’t recruit or retain cops because of the damage done to the IPD” he added. The Ithaca PBA urges Acting Mayor Lewis to address the recruitment & retention issues, to commit to the future of the Ithaca Police Department, and to restore public safety in the Ithaca community.