TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.— A month after the Tompkins County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee passed a resolution to establish the Community Justice Center (CJC) as part of the “Reimagining Public Safety” plan, the legislature as a whole—AKA the final say to move forward with the CJC creation—voted 12-2 in favor of the new joint department between the county and the City of Ithaca. Now just days later, the CJC’s future is beginning to come into focus.

The CJC, as written in the resolution, will be a body made up of county and city employees that, in accordance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order 302, and will be tasked with guiding the implementation of the Reimagining Public Safety plan. That work will include determining plan priorities, designing and managing implementation and managing overall coordination between the city, county and law enforcement.

The resolution also lays out the county’s planned contribution towards the establishment of the CJC—a total of $144,380 to be spent on staffing and technology. Again, the resolution passed 12-2 with Republican legislators Mike Sigler and David McKenna voting against.

In the following meeting of the Public Safety Committee two days later on May 20, more details on the next steps and a breakdown of the budget were presented. The proposed budget is as follows, with costs being split almost equally between the city and county (Tompkins is taking on an additional software cost):

Draft descriptions of these roles included in the budget were sent internally to the committee and will be reviewed by the entire legislature at its June meeting. Advertising and recruitment will begin in July.

Outgoing County Administrator Jason Molino also presented a timeline of the CJC’s implementation during the Public Safety Committee meeting. According to that document, the CJC will be up and running by this fall.

In terms of the CJC’s actual work—the implementation of the Reimagining Public Safety recommendations—that timeline extends all the way into 2024.

Taking something off of this extensive to-do list though, legislators accomplished one of the goals set forth by the reimagining plan already—a resolution calling for civil service reforms.

Two resolutions addressed this goal of the reimaging process. One to, “provide for the hiring of police officers that better represent the communities that they serve.” Legislators unanimously voted in favor of this resolution which accomplishes its goals by urging state lawmakers to abolish several restrictions related to the civil service exam including limiting the number of qualified officers who pass the exam who are then able to be hired at a given time, a strict timeline on how soon you can retake an exam after failing and other such things.

Additionally, a resolution supporting a call on state lawmakers to reform New York State Civil Service Law (CSL) Section 75 which makes it exceedingly difficult to discipline officers accused of misconduct passed 12-2 with, again, Sigler and McKenna opposition.

Advocating for civil service reforms in these areas was item number 17 in the Reimagining Public Safety plan passed earlier this year. The next step for the CJC, and for the Reimagining Public Safety effort will be for the City of Ithaca Common Council to approve the resolution establishing the department on June 2.

Anna Lamb

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