This is a letter to the editor submitted by current Common Council candidate Robert Gesualdo Cantelmo. To submit opinion letters, please review our letters policy here and submit them to Anna Lamb at email@example.com.
Police reform is long overdue. As we work to achieve social and racial justice, we need improved de-escalation tactics, mental health training, community reconciliation, and unarmed public safety response. I applaud Common Council and the county for passing a sweeping new Reimagining Public Safety plan, but there is still much work to be done. Implementation is a major challenge facing our community and it requires a firm commitment to change, and creative solutions, to overcome the challenges of local governance. This month, Council approved $124,000 for the Community Justice Center, demonstrating a clear budgetary commitment to this change. In addition, a working group will be convened to look at the reforms exclusive to the city and the Ithaca Police Department.
If elected to serve the fifth ward on Common Council, I will work tirelessly to expand public dialogue on key concerns, develop detailed action plans working hand-in-glove with our county partners, ensure sufficient budget for implementation, and adapt our approach when needed to mitigate any negative, unintended consequences of our public safety reform.
As a candidate for Common Council and chair of the Public Safety and Information Commission, I unequivocally support police reform and have brought forward specific ideas grounded in evidence for how to implement it. This is informed by hundreds of conversations with residents, detailed research, and a familiarity with the city’s public safety and budgetary data. As the chair of Ithaca’s Public Safety and Information Commission, I have experience working with diverse groups of stakeholders and using evidence to develop policy recommendations. I have the support of most of the current elected city officials and am ready to work with them to champion progressive police reform in an effort to eliminate social and racial
injustices in our community. They know me to be collaborative, but also an independent and principled voice who does not shy away from my ideals.
The New York State police union has recently intervened, likely in the hopes that it would lead to delay or an abandonment of Ithaca’s police reform efforts. All eyes are on Ithaca right now and our ambitious Reimagining Public Safety efforts. The state police union does not want these large-scale institutional changes to be implemented, which they perceive could mean less funding and job security for police, as well as increased accountability.
If elected, one of my first priorities will be to support additional public forums on police reform that include people traditionally underrepresented in policy making. On Council, I will work tirelessly to secure the necessary logistical and financial resources needed to ensure success. Furthermore, it is our job to guarantee these resources prioritize the new capabilities in progressive public safety that we hope to cultivate. I hope through cooperating on this historic initiative we can further improve the public trust and confidence in our law enforcement and public safety officials. To that end, I will promote the institutionalization of a close working relationship with the Community Justice Center, municipal working groups, and city and county officials to respond to developments and challenges facing the reform process. I also wish to enhance the research, advisory, and oversight powers of the city commissions and community police board to deepen the public’s voice in this process.
It is essential for our community that we successfully implement the Reimagining Public Safety policy.
Changing government institutions is challenging and often met with resistance. If elected, I look forward to applying my experience and proven skills, and to work with our community, to enact public safety reform.