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Highlights of the March 30th, 2021 special meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature

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Highlights of the March 30th, 2021 special meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Tompkins County Legislature Passes Amended Reimagining Public Safety Resolution

The Tompkins County Legislature met in a special meeting to discuss a resolution regarding the draft Reimagining Public Safety report. The draft report follows New York State Executive Order 203 issued by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo in light of several high-profile police killings of Black people. The final resolution passed with a vote of 11-2, with Legislators Glenn Morey (R-Groton) and Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) dissenting.

The resolution, titled “A Resolution Stating Tompkins County’s Reimagining Public Safety Plan to be Submitted in Response to New York State Executive Order 203” in its amended and final form can be found on the Tompkins County website. The full draft report can be found on the Reimagining Public Safety web page.

Legislator Rich John (D-Ithaca), Chair of the Public Safety Committee began the meeting by bringing forward the resolution and making comments thanking the public and Legislators for participation throughout the process. John also spoke to the value of the collaboration between the City and County, remarking that the two police forces collaborating will lead to the best results for the safety of the community.

Legislator Anne Koreman (D-Ulysses) stated, “This is the first step to building trust with marginalized communities and communities of color,” and offered an amendment regarding the recommendation for a Tompkins County Public Safety Review Board. Koreman’s amendment proposed to “Create an independent Tompkins County Public Safety Review Board” rather than to evaluate the need for one, the amendment was seconded by Henry Granison (D-Ithaca). Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) remarked that the previous change was made in the Public Safety Committee due to some Legislators having “serious hesitations” as it pertained to review boards with the ability to impact discipline of officers in an office with an elected Sheriff. The amendment failed 6-7, with Legislators Robertson, Black, Champion, Granison, Koreman, and McBean-Clairborne voting in favor.

Legislator Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) remarked on the community’s perception of the plan, stating “The one big flaw of this report was the City’s recommendation to dismantle the Ithaca Police Department. The other recommendations I see in the plan will help our community; many people unfortunately disregarded the report after reading the first recommendation.” Black added that Legislators have been spending a significant amount of time and effort over the past few months engaging with the community and doing their homework. Black continued, that there are, in fact “Inequalities in policing, black and brown people have been treated hostile and unkind, it absolutely happens in our county.” Black followed her statements by proposing amendment to remove the recommendation “Repurpose SWAT Mobile Command Vehicle to Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response and Develop Policies for Use of the Mobile Command Center.” The amendment was approved along with a separate amendment “That in the event the City of Ithaca determines not to maintain the SWAT/CINT vehicle as a City asset, the County shall conduct its own analysis as to the utility of maintaining it as a mobile communications center,” proposed by Legislator Anne Koreman.

 

Legislator Martha Robertson (D-Dryden) proposed an amendment to add the creation and operation of a collaborative Community Justice Center (CJC), as proposed in the draft report, to implement the passed plans and to report to the City and County regarding progress in implementation, stating “adding the CJC says ‘we’re serious, we’re going to do this.’”. The amendment was seconded by Legislator Henry Granison. Legislator Rich John stated that a second resolution to consider the CJC would be brought forth to the Legislature in April. The amendment failed 4-9, with support from Legislators Robertson, Granison, Koreman, and McBean-Clairborne.

Legislator Henry Granison offered a series of amendments to increase community involvement in the process following the passage of the resolution. An amendment carried resolving that a comprehensive plan be developed to address the community’s direct involvement in every aspect of implementing the recommendations contained in the

draft report (passed 11-2, with Legislators Glenn Morey and Mike Sigler dissenting). Another amendment put forth by Granison and passed would develop a comprehensive community policing and outreach plan to connect law enforcement and residents.

Following the amendment process, Legislature Chairwoman Leslyn McBean-Clairborne (D-Ithaca) made a statement, “Asking all of us, as we continue this process, to keep Executive Order 203 in mind - and the reason for it. How is this centering and responding to what has been happening historically to people of color in relation to policing, how is any of it making it better or working to dismantle systemically racist structures and policies that lead to the killings of many people of color?” McBean-Clairborne continued, “This has been a very long and involved process” and gave thanks to Tompkins County Chief Equity and Diversity Officer Deanna Carrithers and City of Ithaca Human Resources Director Schelley Michell-Nunn for ushering the process forward, and to others who have been involved in the process including law enforcement and law enforcement leadership.

McBean-Clairborne added that “None of these things completely or comprehensively fix problems, but they are a step in the right direction. These recommendations have to inform comprehensive policy change,” continuing, “I want to assure the community that this is not the end of it. What we’re looking for is for community to be involved in all aspects of the recommendations. This will be an inclusive process.”

Several legislators remarked about their concerns with the short timeline from Executive order 203, concerns about the rollout of the plan, and with how the report will align with what the City of Ithaca passes in their meeting on March 31. Several Legislators also thanked the community members and law enforcement officers who participated in the Reimagining process.

To end the meeting, Chairwoman McBean-Clairborne amplified the seventh approved recommendation, to “Develop a comprehensive community healing plan to address trauma in the relationship between residents and law enforcement.”

The plan will be submitted to New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica, pursuant to Executive Order 203, on April 1.