ITHACA, N.Y — Nine people were at Day 1 of the Ithaca Police Academy’s 2018 Citizens Police Academy on Tuesday night, where officers discussed K-9 dogs, patrol operations, drugs and other major investigation topics.
The academy is a community engagement effort to teach adults about what the Ithaca Police Department does in the community and why they make the choices they make. The academy has been pared down from the original eight-week course, but still keeps a lot of the essentials on the program, such as discussing the SWAT team, search & seizure, implicit bias and the K-9 Unit.
Here are seven fast facts from Day 1 of the academy:
1) There are currently 64 IPD officers who rotate covering three shifts a day every day of the year for the city with about 30,756 residents. That’s fewer than the 75 officers who were on the force in 1996 when there were 29,670 residents and fewer college students seasonally. IPD Chief Pete Tyler said, “I wouldn’t be shy to ask for 80 officers at a minimum.”
2) Ithaca police officers have been carrying Narcan, an over-the-counter drug that instantly blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose, since 2014. Last year, officers reported administering it to people 17 times. “At least probably half of them, if we were to take a best guess, were lives that were saved by police officers,” Tyler said.
3) People who overdose or people who report overdoses are not ticketed or investigated for their drug use. Sgt. David Amaro said evidence may be collected at the scene if police believe it can lead to a dealer being tracked down, but the main priority for officers responding to overdoses is saving lives. “I do believe strongly that those people (heroin dealers) should be held responsible that are passing that poison out the people that are suffering from it,” Amaro said.
4) Ever see one of the K-9s in a police vehicle on a hot day? Don’t worry! The air conditioner is on and the vehicles are equipped with three sensors that monitor the temperature inside to ensure the dog is safe. “We always know that they’re safe, especially in hot temperatures,” Officer Pat Kimmich said.
5) Police K-9s know the difference between being on-duty and being off-duty, primarily due to a handler’s body language and tone of voice. Officer Jamie Buffone, Rex’s handler, said she takes the dog on an evening walk during her shift and Rex knows it’s not work-related. She said Rex lays in the back of the seat and wants a belly rub, then gets out of the cruiser and wants to be pet more. But when she needs him for work, he’s ready for the job. “I’ve never had an issue with him wanting his belly rubbed. It’s all business,” she said.
6) Investigator Kyle Paolangeli works primarily to help track down major drug dealers in the Ithaca area. He said that while he has been part of operations that have yielded major arrests, such as “Operation Un-Wise” that led to 31 alleged drug dealers being charged, those arrests only stem the tide. Within weeks, other drug dealers start taking their place. “We’re exhausting our options in this war on drugs,” he said. “The dealers I deal with are killing people with heroin.”
7) Paolangeli helped people at the academy understand the street value of heroin and why the drug trade can get violent. A gram of heroin costs about $120-130. For reference, a nickel weighs about five grams. Heroin at that weight would cost about $600. A kilogram of heroin, which would look like the large bag of flour in the photo below, would cost about $120,000.
Featured photo: K-9 Bert finds Officer Pat Kimmich’s unloaded gun during a demonstration Tuesday night. Photo by Jolene Almendarez/The Ithaca Voice