I have attended almost every Reimagining Public Safety forum, starting with the very first one. I have seen firsthand the city government interacting with its community and the police. Mayor Svante Myrick’s idea of public safety seems performative, calming and self-interested.
This process is a performance from the start. During public forums, participants were tone-controlled in forum discussions, did not have time to speak, and were only allowed to speak once; there was no dialogue or discussion. Questions about the lack of sanction and the consequences of the Ithaca Police Department’s transgressions remained unanswered. They hear us, but don’t listen. It’s not public safety.
Mayor Myrick told us that removing police funding to the extent that the community demanded it was not a serious option. He congratulates IPD and castigates the anti-racist demonstrators. It allows Agents Slattery and Monticello to remain employed despite traumatic interactions with the public. Its priorities clearly seem to focus on maintaining the status quo rather than seeking restorative justice or accountability. It’s not public safety.
This process was ostensibly a collaboration with the community. It’s meant to be all of us, working together so that the public can help inform and influence policy regarding our security and the officials who provide it. The GQ article speaks of Mayor Myrick’s efforts, with only fleeting recognition of the community he serves. The hastily released draft appears to reflect what Mayor Myrick wants and ignores the expressed needs of vulnerable members of our community. It’s not public safety.
We need better public services. We need better mental health services, better financial support, better affordable housing options. Our existing public services are capable, inaccessible and unable to sufficiently serve those who need them. Since the start of the pandemic, the community has made self-help efforts to address these shortcomings. He has seen the undeserved hardships of too many underserved people. In this collaboration, the community does all the work on these expressed needs.
Public safety begins by rectifying these fundamental problems, listening to the cries of those who have been marginalized and are struggling to survive. If this Public Security project is the result of this collaboration, it is unfortunately not imaginative. We don’t need to rename police services, we need remedial policies.