ITHACA, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee members unanimously voted to make it easier for the public to access data on arrests, prosecutions and case outcomes. The new datasets will satisfy one of the major police reform recommendations set forth by the “Reimagining Public Safety” working group in 2021.
The Community Justice Center (CJC), which will oversee the data, is a collaboration between the City of Ithaca and the county to implement plans formulated under the city’s landmark police reform project, Reimagining Public Safety. The CJC site will feature easily accessible links to law enforcement departments’ separate databases.
The matter will come before the full Tompkins County Legislature at its December meeting for final deliberation.
While most of the data that will be included in the new database is already publicly available, it can be difficult for members of the public to locate since it is currently scattered across various department websites. The database will provide a centralized location for the statistics. The Ithaca Police Department has already introduced its own dashboard for call and crime statistics.
District Attorney Matthew Van Houten said his office is “within days” of launching its dashboard and is working through technical and formatting issues before its release.
The following information will be made available through databases linked on the CJC’s website, as well as on the district attorney’s and the sheriff’s.
- Tracking arrests
- Cases by location of residence
- Initiation of arrests
- Tracking repeat vs. first-time offenders
- Pre-sentencing data by systemic indicator
- Tracking prosecutions
- Monitor the number of people in the Tompkins County Jail
- Pretrial release and detention
- Tracking legal representation (retained vs. assigned counsel)
- Tracking case outcomes
- Mental health and drug treatment court participation rates (alternatives to incarceration)
- Domestic violence cases
The resolution was discussed last in August, at which time local law enforcement officials informed committee members that combining all the data requested by the working group into a single database would be “impossible.”
Van Houten and Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne agreed to collaborate to develop a standardized method for tracking and displaying statistics on their respective databases.
The working group, comprising community members, non-profit representatives and law enforcement officials, initially proposed the creation of a single, unified database that would contain public safety information from across the county.
Committee members voted to table the resolution at the August meeting after some members shared concerns that the departments providing the data would not include context to explain its meaning or significance.
Committee chair Rich John was, at the time, among the few members opposed to sending the resolution to the full legislature. He said he was concerned about releasing “limited data” to the public, fearing it could be “interpreted in a way that would be unfair” to police officers in the community.
John said he felt releasing only arrest data without context could lead the public to draw conclusions about the “impact of race in policing that may or may not be accurate.”
The final data site will include an expanded list of data and attempts to address John’s concerns by including contextual language.
The resolution is one of 19 recommendations agreed upon by the county and the city in the “Public Safety, Reimagined” report that was accepted by state legislators in 2021.
The report was introduced in 2021 by former Mayor Svante Myrick and former Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino in response to then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203. That tasked local governments to create plans to address widespread distrust between law enforcement and minority communities in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in 2020.