This story was written by the Ithaca Voice’s Mike Smith.

Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca’s Common Council continues to work through the details of Mayor Svante Myrick’s proposed budget, with much of a budget meeting last week dedicated to police spending.

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The mayor’s budget proposes an increase of a little over 1% to the IPD’s $11.5 million operating budget.

Here are 3 takeaways from the meeting:

1 — New Programs Cost Money, Manpower

IPD is poised to roll out its body camera program in the the coming months. Official trainings are on the books for the end of October.

This technology comes at substantial cost – both in terms of both raw dollars and staffing requirements.

IPD Chief John Barber rolled out the figures: an initial investment of $74,200 was to purchase the cameras, followed by a yearly investment of $29,000 to cover the storage space and powerful software needed to utilize the cameras.

This new body camera protocol also raises concerns about an already understaffed police department. When footage from a camera is needed in a case, the process of preparing that footage is very labor intensive.

According to Barber, this may require the department to expand its administrative capabilities to keep up, so that officers aren’t stuck behind desks reviewing film when they could be out making an impact in the community.

2 — Staffing Crisis Looms

Even without body cameras adding to the workload, the IPD is already stretched thin.

While the department is funded for up to 69 officers, only 62 are on staff – and 8 of those are on light duty, out on disability, awaiting additional training, or otherwise unable to work at full capacity. This leaves the number of active officers at just 54. In addition, a number of officers are up for retirement next year, many of them senior officers and investigators.

Even with 3 new recruits being sworn in soon, and a potential new batch of recruits soon to be taking their civil service tests in November, the IPD may be dealing with this staffing shortage for many months to come, according to officials.

Mayor Svante Myrick’s proposed budget calls for a small increase to IPD
Mayor Svante Myrick’s proposed budget calls for a small increase to IPD

3 — Success Stories

Despite the ongoing manpower problem, IPD is still making strides forward. Chief Barber reported that crime rates are down and recent county-wide stings had made a substantial dent in Ithaca’s illegal narcotics market.

Additionally, Ithaca seems poised to adopt something akin to Seattle’s “LEAD” program – an alternative to jailing low-level drug offenders that seeks to get them in treatment instead of a cell. Mayor Myrick was quick to note, however, that implementing such a major program will require, you guessed it, more money and manpower.

The department has also maintained its focus on community outreach programs. Chief Barber pointed out that IPD has made over 100 community outreach efforts this year – like the upcoming Community – IPD Barbecue on Saturday.

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Jeff Stein

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