Ithaca, N.Y. — An internal police review of a sergeant’s decision to pull his weapon on two unarmed teens found that the action was “wholly consistent” with Ithaca police policy.
Mayor Svante Myrick released details from the Ithaca Police Department review of the incident on Monday afternoon. He also announced that the city will seek a slew of changes, including body cameras, for its police department.
Sgt. John Norman was cleared of at least two major accusations leveled against him: 1) that he had no reason to pull his weapon on the teens, and 2) that his actions were racially biased.
Less clear, however, is the review’s finding of a third accusation leveled against Norman: that he was improperly investigating an incident, and chasing the teens, without being properly identified.
The statement on the matter isn’t clear. It says that the review of the incident “revealed a clear need – in many circumstances – for criminal investigators at a crime scene to wear an outer garment identifying them as a police officer.”
In an interview Monday, Myrick said he couldn’t comment on that specific personnel matters.
City officials are constricted by state law — in particular, what’s known as section 50-A — about what they can release about police officers.
It’s also noteworthy that a separate review by the city’s Community Police Board is pending.
Some major points found by the city’s internal review:
1 — City: No racial bias at play in incident
A press release stated:
“The City’s review reveals no race-based motivation for the detention of the youths. Some members of the public have been concerned that Sgt. Norman identified and pursued and drew his service weapon on the young men for no other reason than they were young and black.”
“The City’s review found no evidence to support that claim.”
The statement also said that Sgt. Norman “did not stop the teens of his own initiative.”
The review found that Norman was instead following the commands of Lt. Scott Garin, Norman’s shift commander.
“IPD was on the lookout for anyone who returned to the scene because arsonists tend to return to the scenes of fires they have set,” the statement said.
2 — It’s okay to unholster weapon during chase in the dark
The city said that an officer’s “unholstering of his weapon when initiating a stop after a chase in the dark does not generally violate IPD policy.”
The city referenced the shooting of Ithaca police Officer Anthony Augustine.
“…An officer unaware of the identity and intentions of a person being stopped after a chase in the dark is justified in taking reasonable precautions,” the press release said.
“Sgt. Norman’s decision to draw his service weapon was wholly consistent with standard police policies.”
3 — The police say the teens aren’t cooperating with them
The press release said, “The subject youths have declined to participate in the City’s internal review of IPD’s handling of this incident. … The teens who were detained chose not to cooperate with the internal review, so their account may differ from the findings above.”
4 — Should sergeant have been more clearly identified as police?
The statement says that the review “revealed a clear need” for police at crime scenes “to wear an outer garment identifying them as a police officer.” I
“We will also work to modify standing policy to clearly address the need in many instances for criminal investigators at a crime scene to wear an outer garment identifying them as a police officer,” Myrick said.
“This policy modification will minimize confusion in critical situations.”
It’s not clear why this was included. The parents of the teens said that their children did not know they were being followed by police.
Sgt. Norman was not cleared of this accusation in the statement. He was wearing a badge on him during the incident, IPD said.
If he were found to have violated the policy, it’s not clear if authorities could have even legally disclosed the violation.
This news is breaking. We will provide more updates soon.