ITHACA, N.Y. – Ithaca Police Chief Pete Tyler has announced his last day at the Ithaca Police Department will be May 31 after two years as police chief and more than 27 years of service at the department.
Tyler was promoted to chief in December 2017, after steadily climbing the ranks for more than two decades and serving as acting chief for about nine months following former Chief John Barber’s retirement. Tyler and Barber both joined IPD as rookie cops and shared a commitment to community engagement as the department’s leaders. Tyler first joined the police force in 1991.
Tyler said he would describe his past two years at the department as “relentless.”
“That’s what the job entails,” Tyler said.
Along with his work at the IPD, Tyler has also served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT at the Dryden Fire Department and said he plans to continue that work after leaving the Ithaca Police Department. Tyler’s EMT experience was put into action recently after a serious car crash in Dryden. Tyler was the first to respond and administer aid.
“My entire life has been service-oriented,” Tyler said. “I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve served both the Ithaca community and the Dryden community in those capacities for a very long time and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people along the way, had some really good, some really awful experiences as well. But it all has given me the experience leading up to the chief’s position. Hopefully, I have been able to lead by example.”
Tyler, a longtime Ithaca resident and Ithaca High School alum, is the city’s first black police chief. When he took the helm in 2017, he said he would work to serve the public and would prioritize training officers to use non-lethal defensive tactics to deescalate dangerous situations.
Tyler said he made it clear to the interview committee and mayor that he was just planning to step in and fill a gap and was not a long-term solution. When Tyler officially retires, he said he is going to take a step back and enjoy a few months before jumping into something new. Tyler has not announced what job he will be taking after retirement.
“Two years goes by quick, and I think that we’ve done good things and I think we’re set up to continue doing that. I just think that it’s somebody else’s turn, with new energy and maybe some new ideas to take the groundwork that we’ve maintained and maybe take a new look at some things,” Tyler said.
Tyler said being police chief is challenging, and especially challenging to lead a police force “in a city that expects so much from its officers. The standard, in my opinion, is exceptionally high.”
Tyler’s past few months as chief have been marked by tension between IPD and City Hall, as a union contract impasse continues and a request for additional officers was denied during 2018 budget negotiations.
Tyler said the police department is dealing with a number of issues right now, including labor management.
“They haven’t had a contract since 2011, which adds to a morale issue,” Tyler said. “And then we have staffing levels. We’re a very busy police department, exceptionally busy for the size and structure that we’re in currently. We offer a lot of extra services, community outreach, traffic, all these different things that our police department can do and we do it at a level that we feel is necessary — not a minimum standard, but an above average standard. And that’s how we approach things. … I don’t think that the city, the city being the people, understand how many things that officers are actually doing.”
Chief of Police Pete Tyler announced today that he will be retiring later this spring. His last day of service will be May 31st. pic.twitter.com/7pR2z11Csp
— Ithaca Police (@ithacapolice) January 29, 2019
When Tyler became acting chief, he pledged to staff a Community Action Team to improve community outreach. Almost two years later, the CAT team – which was approved by Common Council in 2014 – is still unstaffed, with the department claiming it requires extra personnel.
Looking ahead, Tyler said the biggest issues moving forward in 2019 will be staffing, hiring and contractual issues, which he said: “let’s hope (is a) success story in 2019.” He also said the job of a police officer is always evolving. Five years ago, Tyler said they weren’t really talking about the mental health crisis or the opioid crisis, which are things that now affect everyday operations at the Ithaca Police Department.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick said he is grateful for Tyler’s service as chief and his decades-long career keeping Ithaca safe.
“We’ll miss his talents inside the department – but his commitment to training and preparedness means that IPD will remain one of the best departments in the country,” Myrick said.
Featured image: File Photo