ITHACA, N.Y. — More than 100 members of law enforcement, first responders and well-wishers bid farewell to Police Chief John Barber Thursday afternoon during his final ‘walk out’ from IPD headquarters.
“I’m thrilled that all of you are here – right now I am overwhelmed with emotion,” Barber said during a brief speech. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this… I feel like each one of you is a member of my family.”
After nearly 30 years of service in law enforcement, Barber announced his plans for retirement in Dec. 2016. His career began in 1989 as a New York State Corrections Officer, and he was later hired in 1994 by the Ithaca Police Department. Barber was appointed the chief for IPD in 2013.
As Barber exited IPD flanked by his former training officer and former IPD officer Anthony Augustine, he approached Deputy Chief Pete Tyler at the front of the crowd. Tyler, who will be promoted to Acting Chief of Police, noted the impact Barber has made on the entire Ithaca community.
Tyler said after the walk out, “I know his administration has worked really hard to get IPD where it is today. We’ve been friends for as long as we’ve been cops. I know he’s ready and I know he’s going to be happy,” Tyler said. “I’m in my 26th year – I’m excited, the table has been set, and we have an incredible staff which we’ve worked hard to train. John has set us up very nicely to move forward.”
Barber, who gave a brief speech to the crowd, motioned toward his family who gathered to see the tradition.
“I’d like to start by thanking my family. They’ve been by my side for years,” he said.
Barber then addressed Officer Colin, who stood at the head of the line of IPD officers.
“I would also like to thank my good buddy Officer Colin, who is 9 years old. He’s been the biggest inspiration to me and certainly the highlight of my career,” Barber said. “I love that kid like he’s my own.”
Officer Colin was the first to receive one of Barber’s many hugs for the afternoon. Following his speech, Barber stepped down from the podium to greet everyone in attendance with a handshake and a hug.
While Barber’s retirement was met with some sadness, members of his family shared their excitement for the free time he will now be able to share with them.
Barber’s daughter, Mercedes Barber, said, “It’ll be nice that he can actually relax now – there were some days when things got pretty stressful. Now he’ll have some extra time with his grandkids.”
Barber’s girlfriend Vanessa Bentley — an officer at Cornell University — shared the enthusiasm for his retirement, saying, “We’re so excited for him, it’s been a long career. I think it’ll be an adjustment at first, but he has so many projects going, he can’t sit still.”
All photos by Jolene Almendarez/The Ithaca Voice