Acting Chief Pete Tyler takes the helm from newly retired Chief John Barber on March 9. Photo by Jolene Almendarez/The Ithaca Voice

ITHACA, N.Y. — Since the retirement of former Ithaca Police Chief John Barber, the city has been working to find some to fill the post.

Barber officially retired in March after nearly 30 years in law enforcement. When Barber stepped down, Deputy Chief Pete Tyler took the reigns as Acting Chief. Though Tyler took the civil service exam for police chief, he did not score high enough to be considered.

“I’m disappointed that I didn’t achieve a passing grade on the test, but I’m not ashamed of that,” Tyler said. “What I would tell people is that it doesn’t change my outlook or how long on I plan on staying or contributing.”

Tyler is in his 27th year of law enforcement. He said he will stay on as Acting Chief as long as needed and after a new chief is appointed, will continue to serve as deputy chief, a position he has held at the Ithaca Police Department since 2009.

Related: Meet Acting Ithaca Police Chief Pete Tyler

A search committee is currently reviewing four eligible candidates for chief — two from within the Ithaca Police Department and two from outside, according to Human Resources Director Schelley Michell-Nunn.

The search committee contains three members of Common Council, three from the Community Police Board, a professional, a member of the Workforce Diversity Committee and Michell-Nunn. When the search committee wraps up its interviews, members will recommend at least two candidates to Mayor Svante Myrick. According to city code, Common Council must also approve the choice.

While Michell-Nunn said they hope to make recommendations within a couple months, there is no deadline for when a police chief must be selected.

Myrick said selecting a new police chief is “one of the most important choices I’ll ever make.” In an email Wednesday, Myrick described what qualities the next police chief in Ithaca would need.

“Someone who has excellent communication and organizational skills. Someone who has interpersonal skills necessary to support the officers of the Ithaca Police Department. Someone who has the cultural awareness and sensitivity necessary to build positive relationships between a diverse City and the Ithaca Police Department,” Myrick said. “In short: I am looking for someone who can continue the positive momentum of the previous police administration.”

The list of eligible candidates from the police chief exam with the City of Ithaca were released in June, according to a freedom of information request. The list includes two members of the Ithaca Police Department — Lt. Scott Garin and Deputy Chief Vincent Monticello. Two people who are eligible from outside the department, according to the list, are John Ryan and Paul Johnson.

There are no further details about the outside candidates. Michell-Nunn declined to provide further details on the candidates. The Ithaca Voice submitted a Freedom of Information request Friday for more information.

When Barber stepped down in March, he left the department on a high note. In an interview with The Ithaca Voice, Barber said some of the highlights of his career have been boosting community outreach events like the police community barbecue. A new chief will come in at a time when the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program is soon to be launched.

In the time that Tyler has served as Acting Chief, the department has handled challenging cases, including a homicide, shootings and robberies, while also dealing with low staffing issues. Staffing will continue to be a conversation moving forward though it is improving, Tyler said, as will how to handle the ongoing heroin epidemic. The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program is nearly ready to be implemented.

Myrick commended Tyler’s work as Acting Chief for the past five months.

“Pete cares deeply about the department so he’s expressed his willingness to serve as support the Acting Chief for as long as necessary,” Myrick said. “And if a new Chief is chosen off the current list he will support them as the Senior Deputy Chief. Pete is – rightfully – very proud of how our department is performing and I certainly will continue to support him.”
Tyler said he’s disappointed he did not score high enough, but said he is proud of his service at the Ithaca Police Department and hopes to leave the department in a good, if not better, place.
 “You can make excuses all day long, but it doesn’t solve anything, so I take responsibility for that” Tyler said. “It would be the same thing I tell my children — sometimes you don’t succeed and it’s nobody else’s fault but yourself and you have to make the best of it, and hopefully that creates new goals and a new energy to succeed next time, so that’s what I’m doing.”

Featured image: Acting Chief Pete Tyler takes the helm from newly retired Chief John Barber on March 9. Photo by Jolene Almendarez/The Ithaca Voice

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.