By Matt Fossen
A recent poll reveals that 59.5% of locals do not believe that Ithaca is in need of a SWAT team. The responses are largely charged by the August 9th incident in which an Ithacan police sergeant detained two African-American teenagers, searching them and removing his firearm from his holster. Since then, an investigation has been conducted and recently shown that racial bias had nothing to do with the police officer’s actions. Aside from speculation over bias, the epicenter of the issue is that the officer was not in a marked police car nor wearing official police depart apparal. The response from the city has been that in the last week the police department has been modifying policies to ensure that officers are always clearly identifiable when addressing a situation.
Yet for most, the story is far from over. In the last few days a new possibility for a second investigation has been announced to which Mayor Svante Myrick has said that the city will work with the community police board in any way necessary.
And while this story has much to do with police identification, for many Ithacans it has to do with racial profiling and police brutality. The two teenagers involved were not charged with anything and local community voices have been comparing this incident to the litany of other profiling stories exploding accross the country. In an official statement, Myrick reassured Ithacans that the IPD's integrity and credibility is its own first priority and that while the IDP adheres strictly to safety first policies, changes needed will be strongly looked at going forward.
"We will also work to modify standing police to clearly address the need in many instances for criminal investigators at a crime scene to wear an outer garmet identifying them as a police officer." said Myrick. "This policy modification will minimize confusion in critical situations while supporting IDP's department accreditation initiative."
Chief of Police John Barber also added by saying, "I can understand why some members of our community would be concerned about this incident, which is why we conducted a full and thorough internal review."