Accountability for Ithaca Police Officer harassment of Cyclist

On July 3, a few days after hearing back from the Community Police Board who had investigated my incident on March 20 of this year, I spoke at the Common Council and our Mayor. Though in this incident where off-duty IPD officer Greg Firman harassed me on my bicycle while he was driving, then body checked, handcuffed and later ticketed me–in this statement at the Common Council meeting I only briefly spoke to our public officials about the driver harassment and the lack of accountability for this off duty officer and the disappointing stance where our Chief of Police told the CPB Officer Firman did ‘nothing out of protocol or procedure’ in that incident.

After what I had to go through that morning at the hands of a member of law enforcement who has been trained to de-escalate situations and protect and serve the public, after getting slammed to the pavement and being a road rage victim, I wonder what would have happened if the on-duty officers showed up to see a civilian on top of me, instead of a member of a protected class. I feel compelled to report and pursue this abuse of power, and one has to wonder if there have been previous unreported incidents. For the good of this community and to protect the good service of the members of our Ithaca Police Department this we need to have accountability for the deliberate, reckless behavior of this officer.

With multiple requests from the CPB, Officer Firman *refused to cooperate with the investigation*. Our current Community Police Board cannot function with the transparency and investigations into allegations of police abuse if the police officers can decline an interview with the CPB Commissioners in a manner similar to declining an offer for a refreshing beverage: ‘no thanks, I’m all set.’

Though it has been a few weeks since my public comment, I have not heard back from a single member of our legislative body, the Common Council, including my alderpersons. But on Wednesday, I heard back from Mayor Myrick.

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Re: Community Police Board Complaint No. 2013-1

Dear Community Police Board and Mr. Keough:

I am in receipt of the Community Police Board’s findings regarding the complaint filed by Mr. Keough on March 21, 2013. I appreciate the CPB’s diligence in investigating the complaint and Mr. Keough’s participation in that process.

I am troubled by the conduct alleged by Mr. Keough. Accordingly, I am working with our Chiefs of Police to consider reform of the Police Department’s policies so that off-duty officer will call for on-duty officers to respond to situations in which the off-duty officer is personally involved or otherwise has a conflict of interest.

Sincerely,

Svante L. Myrick
Mayor

cc: John Barber, Chief of Police

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Though I appreciate this acknowledgement from Mayor Myrick, this does not do much. For the Community Police Board to be effective, Common Council needs to give them the power to subpoena an officer or for the IPD to have severe disciplinary action including loss of job if an officer makes the conscious choice in refusing to cooperate with an investigation into their behavior.

With the current results, would I go through the process of filing a Community Police Board complaint? Certainly not. After six months, the effort put into it, and the lack of any sort of action or results, I see that the CPB has little power to do anything. If Common Council cares to have an effective Community Police Board they will enable the CPB by giving them such power.


Daniel Keough
Chair-person
City of Ithaca Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Council


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One Response to “Accountability for Ithaca Police Officer harassment of Cyclist”

  1. Daniel Keough Says:

    UPDATE:

    Although I have no idea if this officer received any disciplinary action (“internal HR issue”) the Community Police Board did make one single suggestion, which seems so logical and if in place, would have made it even more clear that Officer Firman was in the wrong and over-reacting with violence, instead of asking for assistance: the new policy has OFF-DUTY Officers call ON-DUTY officers if needed:
    >>”The new policy encourages off-duty officers to carefully evaluate the circumstances of the situation and only intervene if their action will safeguard life, prevent serious injury, or prevent significant property loss.”

    Had this policy been in place it is not as likely that the Officer would have abandoned his 12 year old on NY State Rt 79 in a fit of rage to come tackle a guy, who touched his car whom he knew that he had just harassed and drove aggressively around. So he calls for on-duty police because his car was touched and perhaps they laugh at him or a cruiser arrives 10 minutes later. Person on the bicycle stays safe.
    Well it’s a sensible policy to now have in place! Thanks Chief Barber, Mr. Mayor, Cynthia Brock, Community Police Board, Ari Lavine and others involved in this discussion which led up to the policy.

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