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A new way to approach policing

Ithaca mayor submits proposal to approach policing differently

Police brutality has disproportionately targeted communities of color, specifically Black Americans. Data courtesy of: Photo by Amisha Kohli/Ithaca Week.

It is proven that police brutality is disproportionately targeted at Black people. Black Americans are more than three times as likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts, according to a Harvard study. The world seemed to pause after the murder of George Floyd; protests and demonstrations were held worldwide.

The video of a Minneapolis police officer suffocating Floyd with his knee demanded change. Protestors called to defund the police, reform the police and abolish the police. Our state and local governments, it appears, are ready to listen.

NY state and local government response

In response to the growing social unrest after Floyd’s death, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed Executive Order 203 on June 12, 2020.

The order acknowledges the state’s history of discrimination and mistreatment of Black Americans and mandates municipalities to develop strategies to address racial discrimination and prioritize the needs of communities.

The Ithaca Police Department (IPD) did not respond to numerous press requests. If the proposal is approved, current members of the IPD will be required to reapply for positions within the “Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety.” Photo by Amisha Kohli/Ithaca Week.

On Feb. 22, 2021, Mayor Svante Myrick released a draft proposal to reform the Ithaca Police Department (IPD). If the proposal is approved, it will replace the city’s police department with a “Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety.”

“I think the proposal will decrease the militarized footprint of policing and increase positive interactions with city employees, which I think will be a good thing for the public safety of the community,” Mayor Myrick said at a Black Town Hall Meeting led by Southside Community Center, a space that works to empower and uplift Black citizens of Ithaca.

Centering the community

The meeting connected community leaders like Amos Malone, a pastor and Southside Community Center board member, to the mayor.

Malone supports the draft and said that while it is still being developed to suit the varying needs of the community, it is a first step toward creating change.

“I believe it’s a good proposal, but it definitely needs to be tweaked,” Malone said. You’re always going to have pushback, but I just think if we’re going to do something, if you really want change, change is uncomfortable.”

Malone said he wants a more equal police department that reflects the Ithaca community members.

Malone believes police officers should build their presence in Ithaca, outside of policing, in order to connect with the community they intend to protect.


While the draft proposal has been met with support from Malone and others from the community, it has also faced criticism from some, including Mona Sulzman.

Sulzman, who has lived in Ithaca for over 30 years, created the Ithaca Housing Justice Tenant group and is active in the Tompkins County Anti-Racist Coalition. She is also a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

According to Sulzman, the draft does not propose radical change. Rather, she believes it is a rebranding of the police department and doubts it will be passed because of how much money would be going into the reform.

“I really feel we should disengage from the process and work within our own movement and have the community come up with really good ways to protect ourselves, and keep fighting, keep fighting to at least defund and demilitarize the police,” Sulzman said.

Sulzman believes the money that would be channeled into the proposed agency should instead be directed back into the community by creating more jobs and affordable housing, as well as investing money into education and medical care.

The proposed agency would replace police officers with armed “public safety workers” and unarmed “community solution workers.”

The public safety workers would respond to what is considered typical criminal activity, and community solution workers would have a focus on supporting the community’s health and needs.

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