Ithaca Mayor names new police chief

By Matt Porter

June 18, 2013 Updated Jun 19, 2013 at 12:54 AM EDT

Ithaca, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick named John Barber as the city of Ithaca's new police chief.

Barber's promotion was announced at a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Ithaca's police station.

Barber had been serving as the acting police chief since the former head of the department, Ed Vallely, retired amidst controversy in October 2012.

Vallely resigned after being named in two reverse discrimination lawsuits filed by two former Ithaca police officers.

Barber said Tuesday his most important job will be mending and creating better relationships with the community,

"Take the time and meet with people who have issues with the police department or concerns with the police department," Barber said, "And then the more you see us in the community doing the good things we do. I think people will have a better understanding."

He said it's important that respect exists inside and outside the Hall of Justice.

"I want what's best for this department, and I want to see this department move forward," he said. "And I want to see a department that is well respected by its community, and regionally, and even nationally."

Barber said the biggest challenge will be resources.

Ithaca employs 58 officers, but Barber said that's 12 officers short of what's needed to effectively police the city.

"At this level of staffing it's very hard to do," he said.

In an effort to shore up the force, the Ithaca police are applying for state and federal grants to help bring new police officers to the city.

Myrick said Barber's 28 years on the force makes him the best choice; and he's confident the Ithaca native can bring everyone together.

"He's straightforward, he's honest, he's tactful when necessary, he's frank when necessary," Myrick said.

Barber's appointment still needs to be approved by Ithaca City Council.

The two former Ithaca police officers suing the department are Chris Miller and Douglas Wright.

The U.S. District Court of Northern New York overturned a $2 million jury award for Miller on Dec. 21, 2012, and ordered a new trial, which has not yet been scheduled.

The Wright case is still in the courts. Wright, who is white, says he was passed over for a promotion by a black officer who had been suspected of tipping off drug dealers.