ITHACA, N.Y. — The Ithaca Police Department investigator at the center of a scandal involving sex crime cases being inadequately investigated over a span of nearly a decade had a complaint to the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) denied earlier this year.
The document, obtained through Freedom of Information requests made with the Cty of Ithaca, outlines accusations made by Officer Christine Barksdale against then-Lieutenant John Joly. Barksdale alleges that Joly discriminated against her on the basis of her race and gender, by targeting her for punishment and demoting her from investigator back to patrol.
The report finds that Officer Barksdale does not offer sufficient evidence that Joly discriminated against her.
It does offer significantly more detail than previously available to the public on the timeline of events that led to Friday afternoon’s bombshell press release.
As initially reported by The Voice, an audit was conducted when Lt. John Joly took over Barksdale’s unit in March of 2019 and found some investigators carrying a significant backlog or uncleared cases. According to the DHR report, Barksdale was not the only officer carrying a backlog.
To address the problem Lt. Joly implemented a new system that required investigators to begin working through their open backlog and closeout cases if possible. Investigators were also required to report back to him every two weeks with an update on their open cases.
May 26, 2019
Officer Barksdale, while working at the store she owns, is confronted by Lt. Joly who requests that she return to IPD Headquarters to receive a “counseling memo,” described in the report as a non-disciplinary action used to call an officer’s attention to a breach in policy.
While Lt. Joly believed Barksdale was on-duty that day, he was unaware that she had shifted her schedule and was not working when he showed up to her shop, says the report.
Barksdale’s complaint says that shortly after receiving the counseling memo, she was reassigned to patrol.
DHR’s investigation found that Barksdale was not technically demoted because she retained her title and her pay was not cut after reassignment and that her reaction to the counseling memo had a hand in the decision to reassign her, and not her gender or race, as her complaint contested.
The DHS report acknowledges that, even if she had been demoted, the department had a legitimate reason to do so.
Barksdale had not been adhering to Lt. Joly’s new directives to close out cases and report on progress every two weeks. The counseling memo was meant to compel Barksdale to adhere to the new policies. According to the report, Barksdale did not acknowledge that she was having an issue at any point with her supervisors. The DHR report says Barksdale disagreed with the system and did let Joly know when she was closing a case, but was unaware that she was supposed to give updates every two weeks. “It is evident from the documentation that Joly’s request was clear,” the report reads.
The DHS was told by Barksdale that due to the nature of sex crimes, they were not as easy to close as other cases. DHS found that Officer Allard, who had acted in a similar role in the Juvenile Investigations Unit, was only carrying four unclosed cases.
June 6, 2019
Lt. Joly sends an email to the investigations unit referencing other investigators “tasked with follow-ups on many of the cases that Investigator Barksdale failed to complete.”
Officer Barksdale alleged in her complaint that this created a hostile work environment. DHR disagreed with Barksdale’s claim because the statement was true — at some point between late May and early June, Joly began reassigning her cases.
8-days later, Barksdale filed her complaint with the Division of Human Rights.
Officer Barksdale is informed of the city’s intent to terminate her.
The City of Ithaca releases a statement outlining the scope and breadth of the failure.
According to a comment provided to the Times, the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association intends to challenge the decision.
What comes next
While it was widely reported on Monday that Officer Barksdale had been fired (due to confusion over a mayoral tweet), terminating a police officer is not that cut and dry.
The union has expressed that they plan to challenge the termination.
The arbitration process and litigation, if there is any, can take months or years.
The full Division of Human Rights report can be found below.
NYSDHR Determination and Order After Investigation by Thomas Pudney on Scribd