ITHACA, N.Y. –– Despite the uncertainty surrounding the impending city budget, the Ithaca Police Department is looking for applicants to take the civil service exam in hopes of finding fitting candidates to replace retiring officers and keep the department’s numbers up.

This comes at the same time that protestors rallying for racial justice over the last month have called on the city government to make cuts to the PD budget –– including drastically shrinking the number of officers to single digits in order to reallocate funds to health and human services agencies and mend the criminal justice system.

“Across the United States and in the Ithaca community, society is embracing moments of change,” the IPD recruitment site says. “The Ithaca Police Department (IPD) is looking for positive people with sound character to contribute to the ever-evolving services we offer the community.”

Ithaca is expecting a 20% loss of revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving a $13 million dollar gap in the budget. Keeping this in mind, city departments are in the early stages of developing their budget proposals which will be presented to the City of Ithaca Common Council in October 2020 and will be voted on at the November 2020 meeting.

“We’re going to be going into the budget proposal and from there it’s got to go through legislative review and there’s so much to be determined so I don’t have an answer for what it’s going to look like hiring wise,” IPD Chief Dennis Nayor said.

In 2020, the city removed six police officer positions from the budget –– a 10% reduction of the available force. Chief Nayor said a shrinking force is unsustainable and to properly operate the department should have a roster in the mid-seventies.

“The estimate I always use is three officers per thousand (residents),” Nayor said. “Being in the mid-seventies would help us bring back our public information officer, our warrant officer, our temporary investigation officer, our traffic officer and to also have a cushion when officers are injured or sick or out.”

On top of local budget issues and pressure from activists, the recruitment push comes as a statewide re-evaluation of public safety operations that has been launched by the Cuomo administration, ordering a review of all municipal and county law enforcement agencies and policies by April 1, 2021. Failing to do so could jeopardize state funding, according to Gov. Cuomo.

Despite a differing opinion on where the city’s money should go, Mayor Svante Myrick also is encouraging as many people as possible to apply to take the exam, hoping that qualified candidates come out of it.

“We want as large a pool of people taking the test as possible. That’ll ensure we have high-quality applicants to choose from if we need to hire in the future,” Myrick said. “If they don’t take the test now, they can’t be hired a year from now, finish the academy 18 months from now, and finish their training 24 months from now, and by 24 months from now any number of officers could retire or leave the department.”

Chief Nayor said that he’s looking to hire only the best applicants –– the number of which have declined as part of a national trend of less people pursuing careers in law enforcement.

Officer vacancies, “have been extremely difficult to fill with people that are quality, because if we don’t have someone that we think will reflect the highest ideals of the profession and will treat the community well, we won’t fill it,” Nayor said. “Nationally it’s been harder and harder to recruit and locally it’s been extremely difficult –– I’ll be honest, the portrayal of policing has been one more factor that’s dissuaded people from wanting to join this profession so it’s going to be difficult, and we need good people.”

For those interested in applying to take the civil service exam complete the form online. The deadline to apply to take the exam is August 6.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com