ITHACA, N.Y.—Ithaca Police Department Officer Sarah Crews will continue fighting her termination from the department after filing an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals. Crews’ lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year in district court.
The lawsuit, which names the City of Ithaca and its past three police chiefs (John Barber, Pete Tyler and Dennis Nayor) as defendants, was initially filed in 2017 and the appeal has not materially changed. Crews is alleging that while employed by the department, she was discriminated against for her sexual orientation and identity.
Despite showing evidence of some workplace bullying, a judge ruled that Crews’ allegations did not rise to the level of discrimination and dismissed her first suit on January 26, 2021. You can read the full decision here.
Mayor Svante Myrick said at the time of the dismissal that the city valued diversity in IPD and would continue to try to “foster a respectful and welcoming environment for all.” Crews’ representation promptly vowed to appeal the decision.
“The City is ringing the bells now, but the City will be wringing their hands when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan corrects this outrageous error,” said Ed Kopko, Crews’ lawyer in the case, in January. “Sarah Crews is a courageous police officer who has faithfully served our community. Nayor is skipping town after lighting the fuse but before the explosion. The fight continues, stay tuned for round two.”
The department’s defense has centered around allegations that Crews was repeatedly insubordinate and disrespectful to superiors in the police department—which was why the city decided to move forward with Crews’ termination, despite anticipating an extended negotiation period with the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association before the termination was official.
On the other hand, Crews alleges that she was a victim of workplace mistreatment, including mocking the way she dresses—which went far enough to include fellow officers making a mock ID of her with “McLovin” as the name, a reference to the movie “Superbad.” She also requested not to search female suspects during intake protocols after Crews claimed one threatened to report Crews for sexually assaulting her during the search; Crews said because she is homosexual, she should not be asked to conduct the searches since it might put her in a compromised position. The department continued to have her conduct searches on women.
Further, according to the court’s decision in January, Crews admitted to many of the accusations levied at her by the city and police department regarding her conduct at work, including cursing at fellow officers, a rough interaction with a minor being arrested for alcohol possession, and more. But Crews’ suit argues that those violations are normally not officially reported for discipline, but are in her case as part of a department-wide effort to continue its discrimination against her and build a case for her termination.
City of Ithaca Attorney Ari Lavine, who does not normally comment on ongoing litigation, did not respond to a request for comment.