Center for Policing Equity Issues Statement on Ithaca's Ongoing Reimagining Public Safety Dialogue

May 04 2022

Recent weeks have seen renewed interest in a first-of-its-kind report issued by the City of Ithaca and Ithaca's Reimagining Public Safety Working Group. 

The report, "Implementing the City of Ithaca's New Public Safety Agency," is the result of 19 months of close collaboration between community stakeholders, including elected representatives and the Ithaca Police Department, and, at the request of both the county and the city, the Center for Policing Equity (CPE). CPE is the world's largest research and action organization on race and policing and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit; the working group that produced the report consisted of 22 Ithaca residents, including four Alderpeople and three Ithaca Police Department officers, alongside 13 technical advisors from the community.

Some weeks ago, a small number of Alderpeople began to level unfounded accusations against the process that led to the report—though notably, not against the report itself or any of its recommendations. These same officials also implied that paying community members for their labor was somehow untoward, despite the decision to do so being well within then-Mayor Myrick's authority. They have also suggested that the donation of pro-bono services by a non-profit was potentially unethical, a view that, if taken to its logical conclusion, would imperil The American Cancer Society, the Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity, as well as nearly every other nonprofit organization in the country. It's also noteworthy that these complaints don't include the payment of city officials for their participation—including overtime payments to police officers who participated in the process.

For students of history, this response to community-led efforts to shift power isn't new. Indeed, members of Ithaca’s community groups hesitated to begin this work because prior attempts to change their public safety systems had been thwarted by such resistance. They worried that their collective efforts could ultimately be derailed by it.

In partnership with the working group, CPE has been committed to centering the community throughout this process, and the process itself has been transparent. The working group provided regular updates to Common Council via public meetings and townhalls–eight were held between October 2021 and April 2022–and maintained a website with regular updates on progress, meeting minutes, and ways for community members to stay involved. Anyone who wishes to consult the working group's briefings, meeting minutes, and relevant documents will find them on the Reimagine Public Safety website.

Similarly, those who are curious about the bona fides of CPE, an organization with dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies–including in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences–its staff, or its senior leadership may find additional information about our data-driven approach to eliminating racial bias in public safety systems here and here. It's worth noting that questioning the credentials of Black leaders and Black-led organizations (often by those without qualifications to evaluate those credentials) is also not new to students of history. 

There are two paths forward for the work of reimagining public safety in Ithaca: A small but vocal group of people can be allowed to thwart 19 months of effort by vulnerable communities seeking a voice in their public safety systems, or the city can be guided by the communities who have been doing the work to build a safer Ithaca, primarily Black and Brown residents who have long lived with a damaging status quo.

CPE hopes that there will be a renewed focus on the valuable and evidence-led recommendations outlined in the report itself rather than specious accusations from a disgruntled few seeking to derail the process of justice. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the Reimagining Public Safety Working Group and all who are committed to building a safer, healthier, and more just Ithaca.

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About Center for Policing Equity: As a research and action organization, Center for Policing Equity (CPE) produces analyses identifying and reducing the causes of racial disparities in law enforcement. Using evidence-based approaches to social justice, we use data to create levers for social, cultural and policy change. Center for Policing Equity also holds a 501(c)3 status.