ITHACA, N.Y. — In front of a crowd of more than 130 people Wednesday, Ithaca’s first black mayor swore in Ithaca’s first black police chief, who has officially taken the reigns as the 15th chief of the Ithaca Police Department.
Chief Pete Tyler has served as a police officer at IPD for 26 years, raising up through the ranks with his good friend and former chief John Barber, who retired in March. Tyler has been acting chief of the department since then while the City of Ithaca launched a nation-wide search to fill the position. But in the end, Tyler still came out as the top candidate for the role.
“There is no more important job in the City of Ithaca than that of police chief,” Mayor Svante Myrick said. “It (IPD) has more interactions with members of the public than any other department and most of those interactions come in the minute, in the hour, of the worst day of our residents’ lives … so the leader of that organization has to be strong, strong in every way you can imagine.”
Chief Tyler, Myrick said, was the obvious choice since the search for chief began to continue working to build a community-minded police department.
“Pete is from Ithaca. He’s an IHS grad. He’s spent his whole life here, so he knows what’s important in this community. He understands the struggles that many of peers went through and continue to go through” Myrick said.
Speaking personally about Tyler was his best friend and former Ithaca Police Chief, John Barber.
Barber and Tyler started working together in 1994 when they were both rookies to the department working as squad partners.
“We could almost look at each other and know that we needed to go ahead and take action, Barber said. “It was almost like we were paternal twins or something.”
Barber described Tyler as being one of the best leaders he’s ever worked with in policing, as they led the SWAT team and later the department as chief and assistant chief.
“You will be the 15th police chief for the Ithaca Police Department,” Barber said. “It’s history in the making today.”
Tyler said that as he looked around the room at all the people gathered to watch him officially become chief, he was grateful for the people who have stood with him in his personal and professional life.
“I will say as chills go through me right now that I am humbled, I am honored to accept this position. I take this challenge seriously. I understand that this city has an expectation that is very high,” he said. “And nothing but perfection is accepted here.”
“John (Barber), I cannot thank you enough for our friendship over the years. I have learned so much from you. I have learned so many different things — patience, courage, doing the right thing at the right moment because there’s a difference,” Tyler said. “When the pressure is on and the lights are pointing toward you, doing the right thing every single time and knowing what that actually is and what that actually means is so important to our community.”
Tyler went on to thank others, from the people who made him becoming chief a possibility to a retired officer who trained him when he first joined the force. But he ended with thanks to the IPD officers he works with every day.
“To the men and women who are standing here wearing the badge of the IPD, it is your day, it is our day, and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for your support, your very, very unique individual talents but your talents to work as a team more importantly…,” Tyler said. “It’s not about Pete Tyler, although I may be standing in front of the room, it is truly about everybody here who has build this team, and maintained this team and goes out every day to do a difficult job.”
Watch the entire ceremony of Pete Tyler’s swearing in below. All photos and video by Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice