ITHACA, N.Y. — On Tuesday, 37-year-old black man Alton B. Sterling was killed by two white officers during a dispute in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The next day, Philando Castile — a 32-year-old black man in Minnesota — was also killed by a police officer.
The shootings have sparked national outrage about police involved shootings of black men — an issue that’s been vamped up in political and social awareness as shootings are caught on cell phone cameras and scrutinized by officials and the public.
“This happens so much, you wonder if you should write anything at all,” Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick said in an interview Thursday. ” I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
He said that as both a black man and head of the Ithaca Police Department he’s watched the two worlds sometimes clash and has done his best to alleviate or prevent tension between the community and police.
He said he can’t speak for all black people or all police officers, but the very least he can do as mayor is get people in the same room together to solve community problems and discuss matters of distrust.
Myrick released a statement on social media Thursday morning in response to the shooting, stating, “We should not fear public servants, and good police officers should not have to face the fear generated by the actions of bad ones.”
The entirety of his statement is reposted below with permission (Editor’s note: Links have been added by The Voice to provide readers with more information about the programs listed.):
As head of a police department I see everyday the important work that police do. They do a dangerous job under difficult circumstances. They respond to the most mundane calls and the most horrific ones. They protect us from drunk drivers, domestic abuse, burglary and more. Most of them do it with professionalism and respect. They are committed and compassionate public servants.
Those of us who believe in the power of police to be a positive force need to speak up when we see bad policing, and we need to institute reforms to prevent it.
Because as a young black man I fear for my brothers and my sister.
When I am travelling outside of my city I fear for myself.
We should not fear public servants, and good police officers should not have to face the fear generated by the actions of bad ones.
Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were shot to death by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota. This looks for all the world to be horrible, catastrophic policing.
Since Michael Brown was killed nearly two years ago 2,611 people have been killed by police.
In those same two years this is what we’ve done in the Ithaca Police Department:
– Put a body camera on every IPD officer with an extensive policy in place to govern their use.
– U.S. Department of Justice Training on Police & Community Relations – All sworn IPD officers attended, as did some community members.
– Launch of the Officer-Next-Door Program, so far encouraging two officers to take up residence at West Village.
– A Monthly Meeting with the Chief – Members of the community meet every month to discuss current community issues.
– Created the Community Outreach Worker Program, providing an on-street social-work-style outreach presence in downtown Ithaca.
– Opened IPD’s West End District Office last summer.
– Coffee with the Mayor and Chief – This program provides the public with numerous opportunities to engage, at coffee shops across the city.
– Funding a soon-to-be-staffed Community Action Team at IPD to more fully implement a community policing model that emphasizes outreach.
– Citizen’s Police Academy – We have conducted two rounds of this 8-week class to great effect.
– A first-ever IPD Open House.
We’ve taken a great department and made it even better. But I know that your Common Council, Chief Barber, and the leadership of the department feel that our job is never done. We can and will continue to make improvements where we can.
If you have suggestions for how to improve the relationship you can list them here or email me at Mayor@cityofithaca.org. I may not be able to respond to every one – but I read every one.