ITHACA, N.Y. –– As part of the “Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca’s Policing Reform Collaborative,” City of Ithaca Police Chief Dennis Nayor gave a live-streamed overview this week of how his department currently staffs, and trains its officers and in turn gave a snapshot of crime in Ithaca and how his officers have responded.
Nayor’s 50-minute presentation Tuesday included a budget breakdown, staffing information, crime statistics and officer behavior statistics. He laid out the more than $7,350,800 in discretionary spending the department has at its disposal (out of the more than $12 million total police budget when including debt services and pension obligations), the majority of which goes towards officer salaries and overtime pay.In terms of training officers of the Ithaca Police Department receive, Nayor gave a brief overview of all the programs they are required to complete including over 500 hours of cultural competency training, over 150 hours of officer wellness training, over 200 hours of tactical training, over 1,000 hours of investigative training, over 2,400 hours of in-service training and over 1,600 hours of professional development.
The chief said Tuesday that the extensive training is reflected in the number of civilian complaints, and the low rates of use of force.
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Out of the roughly 20,000 calls the department annually responds to, Nayor pointed out in his presentation that last year there were only 19 civilian complaints –– four of which were unfounded, two were not sustained and seven saw the officer exonerated. Additionally, in 12 months of policing, there were only 61 incidents in which officers used force.
“If we weren’t doing de-escalation and training so much, these numbers could easily be much much higher,” Nayor said. “I think that really speaks to the quality. We’d like to get that number down to 0.”
For an overview of every call IPD officers responded to last year, check out their annual report, which lays out every crime committed in the city between 2018 and 2019.
Nayor also outlined the staffing breakdown of the department and their responsibilities –– including 51 sworn officers that work in patrol, investigations and administration. There are also eight non-officer support staff that assist in accounting, timekeeping, data entry, record-keeping and administrative assistance.
Notably, IPD also has 10 officers that are not actively working still on their payroll. These absences are attributed to long-term disability, administrative leave, military assignments, field training or family and medical leave.
According to Nayor during his presentation, this combination of non-active officers and a freeze on hiring due to the available budget has left the department with critical vacancies in patrol officers, sergeants, and several management roles –– 8 in total.
“When the staffing is lower and the call volume is higher, officers are spending more of the time than we’d like just reacting to what comes their way. But when they do have downtime it’s really based on doing preventative policing which is why I’d like to have more officers,” Nayor said.
Initial budget discussions for the City of Ithaca have made the likelihood that these positions will be filled rather low as Mayor Svante Myrick’s proposed budget eliminates eight unfilled officer positons.
Nayor also mentioned his officer’s participation in community outreach — an area he’d like to expand on.
“We’d like to do more but a lot of our hindrances are based off of resources and staffing,” Nayor said.
At the end of Nayor’s presentation, the public was able to ask him questions via a live chat. Much of the interest from the public stemmed from recent calls to “defund the police” and protests looking to make those cuts a reality.
Some members of the public were concerned about upcoming protests, and how IPD will respond to the increasing tension between right and left-wing activists. Much anxiety came from a press release Nayor had released earlier in the day Tuesday, discouraging people from attending events planned for this weekend.
“I don’t take sides. I look at one thing –– that they’re safe,” he said. “We’re looking to prevent violence and vandalism. We’ve worked extremely hard for 19 weeks and I think our officers have done an unparalleled job in doing that.”
Additionally, during the Q&A section, Nayor responded to suggestions that look to redefine policing by taking responsibilities off officers’ plates, saying that he hopes that out of this push to reform law enforcement, the “catch-all” job can be refined.
“There’s a significant amount of calls that we go to that aren’t police functions but we go because nobody else knows who can do it,” he said. “We’ve always been really good at being a catch-all for everything that there’s no other answer for…hopefully that’s something we can find through this reform movement –– we can find ways that police are not responding to things that others are suited for.”
Nayor ended the presentation by telling the public, “we are not perfect and we can always better ourselves and I think this reform and reinvention is going to help us.”