This is a letter to the editor from Ryan Griffin of Ithaca. To submit opinion letters, please review our letters policy here and submit them to Managing Editor Thomas Giery Pudney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am writing to echo my support for the Ithaca City Police Department to, as the legal constraints of the bureaucratic process permit, terminate Christine Barksdale. On October 13, 2017, my 14-year-old son was assaulted by 3 older male teens. An adult male took his $800 phone as my son was being beaten. All of this was captured on video, which was submitted to ICPD the day the incident occurred. The first and last names of two of the teens were also submitted to ICPD that day. The first and last name of the adult male who took my son’s $800 phone from him as he was being assaulted was provided to ICPD. My son had to be taken to the hospital and required a CAT scan. The medical release form was signed so Ms. Barksdale could review the injury reflected by the CAT scan. The serial number of the phone was provided to Ms. Barksdale so she might try to recover the stolen property.
Christine Barksdale was the investigator in charge of our case. No arrests were ever made, to my knowledge. About a month after the incident, Ms. Barksdale simply stopped returning my calls and emails, inquiring if any arrests had been made. The recent investigation into Ms. Barksdale’s work at ICPD has been both a blessing and a curse. It has been a blessing in that it has restored my faith in the competence of ICPD, specifically knowing that Chief Deputy Joly has been assigned the position, cared enough to conduct an audit of the work being done, and had the courage to challenge the non-compliant position of Ms. Barksdale, who brazenly refused to comply with her new supervisor’s directives to rectify the grievous situation which has created a public safety issue and mental health issues for so many individuals and families for years, maybe generations to come.
In another sense, the revisiting of my son’s case has brought up so many emotions of fury and indignance that I wish for the conversations in my mind to be silenced daily. Watching the video again on the 11 o’clock news last week caused nausea in my gut that is difficult to put into words. Reading the story of Laurie Linn’s family member, a survivor of sexual assault who was a minor at the time and allegedly denied a person to support her during the interview, verbally intimidated, and urged not to press charges against the perpetrator, causes fury in me on a deeper level. As a professional who works with minors who are often survivors of sexual assault, I see their rights to a support person being allowed with them routinely violated. There needs to be a law created to prevent this from happening behind closed doors in New York, especially given that these doors are publicly funded.
Although it was degrading to speak with the press regarding my son’s assault, and humiliating to see that assault broadcast for the public to see, there was a specific intent. The leaders of Ithaca and the Ithaca public need to see the other side of Christine Barksdale, someone who was so recently recognized as a leader for our community and survivors of sexual assault. Ms. Barksdale’s Job was to serve and protect, and after reading Ms. Linn’s letter to the Editor, I fail to believe that Ms. Barksdale was just complacent or overloaded with too much work. I feel the public needs to hear the true experiences of the victims and their families before offering Ms. Barksdale their support. In my humble opinion, Ms. Barksdale has been painted as the victim and “scapegoat,” when in fact she has committed multiple acts of gross negligence against victims of violent crime, as well as their families.
I have requested that Ms. Barksdale, currently getting paid to do nothing, spend an hour meeting with me to have an honest conversation about how my son’s assault affected my son and me. The police department cannot facilitate this, I am told. This speaks volumes to me – as our society has been so turned inside our that we would pay someone who did not follow through on her duty to serve and protect for years, and now we continue to pay her – to do nothing.
Furthermore, that Ms. Barksdale would file a complaint of discrimination against ICPD for committing the “crime” of holding her accountable for the work in which she was entrusted, disturbs me to my core. It is my understanding that there have previously been allegations of racism against ICPD officers. I humbly acknowledge and am sorry that this suffering occurred. I also ask you to keep your ear to the railroad track and listen to the stories of the victims and their families as they continue to be heard. I ask you to keep an open mind that the Ms. Barksdale you knew as a community leader was not the Ms. Barksdale known by victims and their families. Hearing one person’s story, told from her own mouth, was enough to make me want to cry and vomit. The department’s reassignment of Ms. Barksdale’s work with ICPD was not the result of racial discrimination, as this allegation has been unfounded by the recent Human Rights Discrimination investigation. The strongest message you can send to the victims and their families is to quickly get moving to remove Ms. Barksdale’s name from the award plaque, restoring the integrity of the award.
Ms. Barksdale, as I understand, has three lawyers to speak for and defend her. Ms. Barksdale even has a local leader who believes in her innocence and speaks out publicly on her behalf! Unfortunately, it has been extremely difficult for victims’ families and victims to find legal representation to tell our stories and represent our rights. Can some law firm please step up to the plate and represent the victims and victims’ families? To date, no one wants to represent anyone’s interests but Ms. Barksdale’s. One more kick in the gut to those who were revictimized and silenced in Ithaca for years now.