Ithaca, N.Y. — Nicknamed “the Ram man” for his work on the SWAT unit, Ithaca police Officer Derek Barr is loud and funny.

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But speaking at Kendal of Ithaca on Monday while being awarded Officer of the Month by the Kiwanis Club along with Inv. Donnie Barker, Officer Barr also talked about the unavoidable seriousness of his job.

“We do have a lot of pressure to culminate these cases in a pleasant result … and there are a lot of family members are involved,” said Barr, who is retiring at the end of this month. “I come in and I do my daily work … I do what I can to curb bad motorists and bad driving.”

Barr, second from the left.

Chief John Barber praised Barr’s work and said he had done much to make Ithaca a safer place for motorists and pedestrians through his tireless efforts.

Barr has issued something like 15,000 tickets in his career, according to the police — and was even teased at the Kiwains ceremony for the consistency of his efforts. (Deputy Chief Pete Tyler jokingly asked if Barr would ticket his own mother.)

“We’ll never know the impact of this proactive enforcer, the countless lives that may have been saved by him doing his job and doing it well,” Barber said of the officer who has “removed unsafe and dangerous drivers and commercial vehicles from the roadways.”

But Barr’s work has extended beyond pulling over drivers and into some of the most important police cases in Ithaca’s history.

Important cases

Here are just some of the biggest cases Barr’s been involved with over the years, according to Chief Barber:

1996 | Sugar truck roll-over in the Treblock Building Parking Lot next to 200 East Green Street.

1998 | Runaway 18-wheel garbage hauler overturns on 100 block N. Aurora St. at Simeon’s, crushing several vehicles with entrapment.

2000 | Bus fatality at Thurston Avenue and Wait. Determined marijuana and alcohol consumption were key factors.

2001 | Bus fatality at the Ithaca Plaza and the K-Mart Entrance involving a tractor-trailer and bus.

2010 | Runaway dump truck on State Street, rollover at CSMA building at 100 Seneca Way.

2010 | Car-pedestrian collision, fatality at Meadow Street.

2012 | Multiple fatal crash near Purity Ice Cream in Ithaca.

2014 | The Simeon’s crash, a fatality.

Ceremony

Barber smiled as he looked toward Barr at the ceremony.

“He is cut from a special cloth, and there will never be another officer quite like him,” Barber said.

Chief Barber also spoke of Officer Barr’s involvement in educating high school students and conducting the mock DWI crash scenarios for graduating seniors. In addition to his work in the high school and with the SWAT team, Barr has also appeared on the Court TV show “Speeders,” the chief said.

“He brought humor to the job and was very skilled and effective as a police officer. He is deserving of this award and his retirement,” Barber said.

In a short speech, Barr thanked those who had gathered. He said that he was grateful for the talented officers he had gotten to work with and for the job he said was like a “calling.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.