UPDATE: This story has been updated with comments from Mayor Svante Myrick about requesting a state-level review of the incidents of Oct. 22. His statement can be read here.

Earlier Story: 

ITHACA, N.Y. –– A petition calling for the resignation or removal of Ithaca Police Department Deputy Chief Vincent Monticello has gathered over 1,200 signatures over the last five days.

The petition requests that Mayor Svante Myrick and Ithaca Police Chief Dennis Nayor, among other elected officials, to “consider Vincent Monticello’s immediate dismissal for cause, improper behavior and failure to detain a man threatening physical violence and hate speech.” On Thursday morning, Myrick posted on Facebook to say that he had requested the help of state agencies to review the incidents on Oct. 22 “from start to finish,” in addition to recommendations from the Community Police Board.

Monticello was a central figure in the protests last Thursday that included the arrests of six people and the first use of pepper spray by IPD against protesters. He oversaw the arrest of Massia White-Saunders, who was protesting a press conference held by Congressman Tom Reed when a confrontation began with someone who was apparently driving by the scene.

Videos show White-Saunders, who is Black, and the other man, who is white, involved in a verbal altercation before the other man tells White-Saunders and other protesters to “kill (yourselves)” and “just die already.” Advocates for White-Saunders have also claimed that the white man was brandishing a knife earlier in the argument. Immediately thereafter, Monticello blames the confrontation on the group of protesters and White-Saunders is arrested, with officers saying that he is being charged with “obstruction.”

Monticello later arrested Genevieve Rand, another protester who arrived at IPD’s headquarters to call for White-Saunders release, misgendering her on video before handcuffing her and leading Rand inside. Rand said that Monticello and other police officers continued to misgender her while she was being processed inside the station.

The first formal announcement of the petition was released Thursday morning by the Ithaca Pantheras, a group of left-wing protesters who have been increasingly vocal around Ithaca over the last few months, in particular since officially declaring themselves in September. They have been a common and potent presence at rallies and protests since May, focusing on reforming the criminal justice system—primarily through defunding the police. Clarification: The petition itself was written by local resident Colton Bready.

“Ithaca is not progressive enough to hide the little ways in which the vulnerable among us are pushed aside and treated as criminals simply to remove us so we cannot speak,” the Pantheras wrote in their release. “We need the community to see this officer’s behavior and not turn away. This cannot be tolerated, no matter the officer’s rank.”

Nayor said he had not yet seen the petition itself, but that the situation involving Monticello from Thursday had been referred to the Community Police Board to be “thoroughly and independently reviewed.” Myrick had previously commented that the police’s conduct last week, including the use of pepper spray, would be investigated to ensure proper protocols were followed, but added to that with his statement on Thursday morning.

“Because there is significant public interest, and because transparency and accountability are the values of our organization, I’ve also invited the NYS Division of Human Rights and the NYS Attorney General to review the incidents on 10/22/20 from beginning to end,” Myrick said. “I will let you know if they accept that request. I’ve not yet reviewed all footage, and will withhold judgement until I can review the outcome of the independent investigations – but I’ve asked for the state’s involvement because of the need for institutional clarity and closure for all involved, including for IPD. I continue to recognize the incredibly difficult circumstances under which IPD has been operating for months.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com