ITHACA, N.Y. –– The team behind the Unbroken Promise Initiative and hosts of the weekly “Truth and Justice” rallies on the Ithaca Commons every Sunday, presented a second open letter this weekend to the Ithaca Police Department, demanding sweeping reforms and resignations from officers accused of wrongdoing.
At a rally on June 29, the first letter was presented which named IPD officers accused of several instances of wrongdoing ranging from fraud to blatant racism. Now, two weeks later, rally organizers say time is up for the IPD and its officers.
“We gave them an out to resign and turn their badges in. I haven’t heard any word of any resignations, so we have a follow-up letter,” said Jordan Clemons, community organizer and emcee at the Truth and Justice events. “It’s time for them to reconcile the situation and understand what is needed for the community. If you’re not culturally competent just resign.
Outside of Clemons, the other authors of the letters have not been publicly named. Both at Sunday’s rally and the June 29 event, Clemons said past and current police are helping construct the demands from the community. Clemons declined to confirm any officers identity, past or present.
Clemons said at the rally on Sunday that, “this is not personal to any particular police. This is about the system.”
The Unbroken Promise Initiative in past weeks has focused on systemic racism and inequality in Ithaca, and how to fix it. Their goals include, amongst other things, creating economic opportunity for disenfranchised black and brown Ithacans –– in part by slashing the police budget and redistributing funds to human services projects.
The original letter to IPD calls for only five officers to be on the department’s payroll and that money saved on salaries be put back into the community.
“If someone wants to pursue criminal charges they can go directly to the court to fill out paperwork officers get paid to do,” the letter says. “State police and the Sheriff’s office can handle calls for crimes that need an officer immediately. There are not many calls for police that require immediate response of an armed officer due to fear of loss of life or serious injury.”
Clemons, for the first time since he has taken on a leadership role in the weekly rallies, opened up about his own past publicly and his own wrongdoings Sunday, in an effort to inspire police officers who may be rightfully accused of misdeeds.
“What I’d like to do as a leader, is to put myself out there…to be the model for the police in which we’re asking them to be truthful about their shortcomings as public servants,” Clemons said. “It’s important for those looking, young people, to not be shy or feel bad that you have done some things you’re not proud of. We’re human. It’s what you do with your mistakes –– what you do and how you respond to your shortcomings…that’s how you build to becoming a better citizen.”
Clemons spoke about his unstable childhood, and being forced into selling drugs in order to provide for his family. Clemons was emotional when addressing the crowd, sharing intimate details about life with a mother addicted to crack cocaine and his strong desire to make something of his life outside of drugs.
“I’m not sitting up here pretending to be perfect,” Clemons said. “I want to be the example for those who come from where I come from that you don’t have to be that. You can be better than that and overcome those situations.”
The Ithaca Voice has not verified the claims in the letter to IPD, however, the City of Ithaca has plans to release police personnel records in the coming weeks following the repeal of Section 50a.
Ithaca Police Chief Dennis Nayor has not responded to a request for comment on the content of either letter.
Weekly demonstrations are set to continue with another gathering next Sunday on the Commons at 2 p.m.