Guest Column: Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick on Police and Race

City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick shared these thoughts on Facebook today in the wake of the police-involved shooting deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, two black men. We are reprinting his text in its entirety, with his permission.

As head of a police department I see every day the important work that police do. They do a dangerous job under difficult circumstances. They respond to the most mundane calls and the most horrific ones. They protect us from drunk drivers, domestic abuse, burglary and more. Most of them do it with professionalism and respect. They are committed and compassionate public servants.

Those of us who believe in the power of police to be a positive force need to speak up when we see bad policing, and we need to institute reforms to prevent it.

Because as a young black man I fear for my brothers and my sister.

When I am travelling outside of my city I fear for myself.

We should not fear public servants, and good police officers should not have to face the fear generated by the actions of bad ones.

Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were shot to death by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota. This looks for all the world to be horrible, catastrophic policing.

Mayor Svante Myrick speaks at the Badge of Honor Association ceremony for a fallen IPD officer. 14850 file photo.

Mayor Svante Myrick speaks at the Badge of Honor Association ceremony for a fallen IPD officer. 14850 file photo.

Since Michael Brown was killed nearly two years ago 2,611 people have been killed by police.

In those same two years this is what we’ve done in the Ithaca Police Department:

• Put a body camera on every IPD officer with an extensive policy in place to govern their use.

• U.S. Department of Justice Training on Police & Community Relations – All sworn IPD officers attended, as did some community members.

• Launch of the Officer-Next-Door Program, so far encouraging two officers to take up residence at West Village.

• A Monthly Meeting with the Chief – Members of the community meet every month to discuss current community issues.

• Created the Community Outreach Worker Program, providing an on-street social-work-style outreach presence in downtown Ithaca.

• Opened IPD’s West End District Office last summer.

• Coffee with the Mayor and Chief – This program provides the public with numerous opportunities to engage, at coffee shops across the city.

• Funding a soon-to-be-staffed Community Action Team at IPD to more fully implement a community policing model that emphasizes outreach.

• The Police Explorer Program.

• Citizen’s Police Academy – We have conducted two rounds of this 8-week class to great effect.

• A first-ever IPD Open House.

We’ve taken a great department and made it even better. But I know that your Common Council, Chief Barber, and the leadership of the department feel that our job is never done. We can and will continue to make improvements where we can.

If you have suggestions for how to improve the relationship you can list them here or email me at Mayor@cityofithaca.org. I may not be able to respond to every one — but I read every one.

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