History of the Ithaca Police Department

Ithaca's First Police Chief

Ithaca became the 21st city in the State of New York in 1888. Prior to that it was an incorporated village and its police force consisted of a couple of village constables. 

The City of Ithaca Police Department was established on June 1, 1888. The 1st city Police Chief was Albert Neideck, who had served previously as a village constable for the Village of Ithaca. Chief Neideck was appointed Chief of Police for the new Ithaca City Police Force on June 1, 1888.

Police Station

The police station was housed in City Hall, located at East Seneca Street and North Tioga streets at that time. This building was built in 1844 as a village hall. It was the home of the Ithaca Police Department until 1963 and was torn down in 1964. Chief Neideck's force consisted of 4 city patrolmen whom were John Donovan, John Campbell, Richard Evans and Perry Robertson. Chief Neideck's weekly salary was $14 per week. John D. Conley served as Ithaca's 2nd Chief of Police from 1900 to 1904.

The Early 1900s

Eugene VanOrder was appointed as Ithaca's 3rd Chief of Police in 1905. By 1906 Chief VanOrder's department grew to 9 full time Officers. Chief VanOrder left the force in 1909.

On March 9, 1909 Edward Buck was appointed Chief of Police. Under Chief Buck's administration, the department grew to 12 full time Officers including 1 Sergeant. Prior to Chief Buck's administration, very few efforts were made to keep official police records. Patrolman Robert Burns was officially designated as the departments Desk Officer in 1910 and was responsible for the department's record keeping.

Edward Buck served as Chief of Police until December 30, 1915.
Chief Albert Neideck
Chief Eugene VanOrder

The Police Department's Longest Serving Chief

William Marshall was appointed to the Ithaca Police Department as a Patrolman on January 1, 1905 and served under Chiefs Eugene VanOrder and Edward Buck. William Marshall was promoted to Sergeant on September 9, 1909, and became Ithaca's 5th Chief of Police on January 1, 1916 replacing Chief Buck. Chief Marshall is the longest serving member of the Ithaca Police Department and the longest serving Chief of Police in the Ithaca Police Department's history.

The Call Light System

Ithaca's 1st motorcycle unit was established that same year with Patrolman Lewis Oliver becoming the departments first motorcycle officer.

Chief Marshall's administration saw the addition of the 1st police call light system some time in the 1920s. This system consisted of a blue light mounted on a pole or building in certain geographical districts of the city. Patrolman on foot and motorcycle patrol would monitor the call lights on their beats. If the light came on, the beat officer had 5 minutes to call the police station by phone.
Chief William Marshall
This method of communicating to officers on patrol existed until the arrival of the 2-way radio installed in the department's 2 radio prowl cars and 3 motorcycles in the 1940s. The call light system was used as late as 1969 as a method of communicating with patrol officers assigned to a walking post. The call light system became obsolete when the department purchased portable radios for its walking beat officers in 1969.

Technological Progress

Prior to the 1920s, the police department relied on the local telephone operator to answer the Department's telephone calls as the Department did not have an officer assigned to the desk to answer the phone on a 24-hour basis. The local telephone operator would sound a loud bell located outside of police headquarters at East Seneca and North Tioga streets. Officers on patrol hearing this gong would respond to the police station and call the operator for the message. By 1930 the Ithaca Police Department grew to 19 officers including 1 policewoman, whose name was Mrs. Meeker. Little is known about her other than she was assigned to the day force. By 1930 the police department also staffed the police desk on a continuous basis eliminating the need to have the telephone operator answer telephone for the Police Department.

The Murder of Mrs. Alice Barnes

Chief Marshall's police department also investigated many serious crimes including the murder of Mrs. Alice Barnes by her husband George "Curly" Barnes on September 9, 1930. Chief Marshall and his Detective Sergeant Pat Hartnett lead a 2-day search for George Barnes.

In the early morning hours of September 11, 1930 Chief Marshall and Detective Sergeant Hartnett commanded a detail of Ithaca Police officers and private citizens to the hilly area between Linn Street and University Avenue, where it was believed Barnes was hiding. Participating in that search was Patrolman Levi Spaulding. Barnes was eventually captured in the 300 block of Linn Street at 6:45 a.m. by Patrolman Ray Wilkinson following a foot chase. Following Barnes capture, he was placed in Patrolman Spaulding's police car and transported to the North Tioga Street Police Station (now the sight of the Seneca Street Parking Garage).

At approximately 7 a.m. Patrolman Spaulding was removing the handcuffs from Barnes, in the police station, when he handed the keys over to Sergeant John McCarthy and said "For God's sake, get me out of here", Patrolman Spaulding collapsed and was pronounced dead in the police station by the police surgeon. The cause of death was a heart attack brought on by the strain of the all night search. Spaulding was laid to rest on September 14, 1930. Spaulding an 11-year veteran of the Ithaca Police Department was also the 1st African American Police Officer hired by the department.

Chief Marshall retired in December of 1950. Chief Marshall served with the Ithaca Police Department for almost 46 years and as Chief for 35 years. He died in 1951, shortly after his retirement.

Ithaca Police Department in the Mid-Century

Detective Captain Patrick Hartnett was named Acting Chief of Police in December 1950. Acting Chief Hartnett was the police departments first Detective Sergeant and was famous for successful search of murderer George " Curly Barnes" in 1930. Patrick Hartnett served as acting Chief of Police until August 1951.
Detective Sergeant Harnett
Chief William Simmers
William Simmers was named Chief of Police on August 8, 1951. He was appointed to the Ithaca Police Department on June 1, 1934. He was appointed to Sergeant on January 1, 1942 and to Captain on December 16, 1949. Chief Simmers served as Chief of Police until January 1, 1958. He retired on April 1, 1958 after serving the City of Ithaca for 24 years.

Significant Growth

Herbert VanOstrand was named Ithaca's 6th Chief of Police on April 1, 1958. Herbert VanOstrand was appointed to the Ithaca Police Department on January 1, 1944. He rose to the rank of Sergeant on January 1, 1951 and to Captain in August of 1951.

Chief VanOstrand's department grew to 34 Officers, 4 Detectives, 7 Sergeants, and 2 Captains. In 1964 the Ithaca Police Department moved to the basement of the current City Hall, located at 108 East Green Street. In 1969, the Police Department moved to its current location at 120 East Clinton Street.

Chief VanOstrand retired in 1972.
Chief Herbert VanOstrand

First Deputy Chief of Police

James Herson joined the Ithaca Police Department in 1967 as Ithaca's 1st Deputy Chief of Police, a new position created within the Police Department. Prior to his appointment to the Ithaca Police Department, Deputy Chief Herson served as a New York State Trooper and then as Assistant Director with the Cornell University Department of Public Safety.

Deputy Chief Herson was named Ithaca's 7th Chief of Police in 1972. By 1981 the Ithaca Police Department grew to 60 sworn officers which included: the Chief, Deputy Chief, 3 Patrol Captains, 6 Sergeants and 8 Detectives. By 1985 the department was expanded to 66 sworn personnel.

Chief Herson retired on June 1, 1987.
Chief James Herson

Serving Twice

Walter Pagliaro was named acting Chief of Police July 1987 and served in that capacity until the hiring of Rochester, New York Police Captain Brian T. Page as Ithaca's 8th Chief of Police in November 1987. Chief Page served as Chief for only 6 months. He left Ithaca for personal reasons and moved back to Rochester in May 1988.

Walter Pagliaro was named acting Chief of Police for the 2nd time in less than 1 year. He served as acting Chief of Police until October 1988 with the hiring of Harlin R. McEwen as Ithaca's 9th Chief of Police.

Deputy Chief Pagliaro, who joined the Ithaca Police Department in 1957, retired from the Ithaca Police Department in 1989.

Creating New Positions

Harlin R. McEwen was appointed Ithaca's 9th Chief of Police in October 1988. Prior to that, he was Chief of the Cayuga Heights Police Department and Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justices Services in Albany, New York.

The command structure of the Police Department was changed during Chief McEwen's administration. In 1989 the position of Administrative Police Lieutenant was added to the force. By 1993 other Police Lieutenants positions were created. One Investigative Lieutenant and 3 Patrol Division Lieutenants positions were created by 1994, while at the same time the number of Police Captains was reduced from 3 to 2.

The Police Captains duties were changed from Patrol Division Shift Commander duties to Captain of Patrol and Administrative Captain. Chief McEwen led efforts to modernize the police department and increase police training.  He instituted community policing efforts to work exclusively in the south and west end of the city and opened a satellite police office at the Southside Community Center.  He also oversaw a major renovation of the police headquarters building that including moving administrative offices and building a new training room on the fourth floor of the building when Ithaca City Court moved out of the space and into the new City Court building next door.  By 1995 the department grew to 75 police officers including 4 Neighborhood Oriented Police Officers obtained via a federal grant.  

Chief McEwen retired from the Ithaca Police Department in February 1996 to take a position as Deputy Assistant Director with the FBI.
Chief Walter Pagliaro
Chief McEwen

Forming New Units

Following Chief McEwen's retirement, Deputy Chief David P. Barnes was named acting Chief of Police. Acting Chief Barnes lead the Department through a difficult time following the death of Investigator Michael Padula on November 17, 1996.

Investigator Padula was attempting to talk an emotionally disturbed woman, who had barricaded herself in her bathroom at 514 West State Street, into surrendering to police when she unexpectedly emerged from the bathroom and fatally stabbed Investigator Padula in the neck. The assailant was subsequently shot and killed by another Ithaca Police Officer. Investigator Padula was the 2nd Ithaca Police Officer to die in the line of duty and the first Ithaca Police to be killed by an adversarial action. Investigator Padula was laid to rest on November 21, 1996 with over 1,500 Officers throughout the Northeast in attendance.

Critical Incident Negotiations Team

Following Investigator Padula's death, the Ithaca Police Department created a Critical Incident Negotiations Team which consists of hostage negotiators to deal with emotionally disturbed persons, hostage and barricade situations. The Critical Incident Negotiations Team received its training from the FBI.

Richard P. Basile was named Ithaca's 10th Chief of Police on July 21, 1997. Chief Basile was formerly Chief of Police in Ellenville, New York prior to coming to Ithaca. Prior to that he worked for the New York State Division of Criminal Justices Services and was a Lieutenant with the Albany, New York Police Department.

The Department's First K-9 Unit

Under Chief Basile's administration, the Department's first fully trained K-9 Unit and Tactical Services Unit were formed. The K-9 Handler for the department is Officer Raymond T. Schweiger. Officer Schweiger and his dog "Odin" were trained during the winter and spring of 1998 by the Onondaga County Sheriffs Department in Syracuse, New York.

Tactical Services Unit

The Ithaca Police Departments Tactical Services Unit was formed in 1998 to respond to incidents such as barricaded persons, suicidal persons, hostage situations and high risk warrants. The primary mission of the Tactical Services Unit is resolve high risk situations without the loss of life or injury to anyone. The Tactical Services Unit consists of a Lieutenant, 2 Sergeants, and 15 Police Officers.
Chief David P. Barnes
Chief Richard P. Basile
The Tactical Services Unit works closely with the Critical Incident Negotiations Team, The Special Investigations Unit, and the K-9 Unit. The Tactical Services Unit underwent a week of training June, 1998 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police whose instructors are current and retired members of the Los Angeles Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics Team.

Ithaca's First Female Chief of Police

Lauren E. Signer took over the reigns following Chief Basile's retirement and capably led the Department until Victor Loo's appointment to Chief.

Victor Loo was named Ithaca's 11th Chief of Police on April 13, 2003.

Lauren Signer again took over at Victor Loo's exit from office in July 2004 and was named Ithaca's 12th Chief of Police in August 2004. She served as Chief until October 2007. During this time Chief Signer was responsible for initiating the IPD Recruitment Team, which for the 1st time actively searched out and aided recruits in the Civil Service process to become Police Officers.
Chief Lauren Signer

Chief Edward E. Vallely

Senior Deputy Chief Edward E. Vallely was appointed as Acting Chief upon Chief Signer's retirement and became the 13th Chief of the Ithaca Police Department on November 24, 2008. Chief Vallely led the Department until his retirement on September 28, 2012.

During Chief Vallely's tenure as Police Chief the department saw many changes. The Department purchased a new mobile command vehicle, equipped with the most state-of-the-art features available. This new vehicle is utilized by the CINT Team, the SWAT Team, and serves as a mobile command center for critical incidents. It is the pride of the fleet of vehicles that IPD utilizes.

Chief Vallely led the department through a difficult time, as IPD Sergeant Bryan Bangs' house was burned to the ground in what Investigators have deemed to be an act of arson. An arrest has not yet been made for this horrific crime.

On September 28, 2012 Chief Vallely retired from IPD after nearly 35 years of service to the Ithaca community.
Chief Edward E. Vallely

Chief of Police John R. Barber

Senior Deputy Chief John R. Barber was named Acting Chief of Police upon Chief Vallely's retirement. On June 18, 2013 John R. Barber was named the 14th Chief of Police of the Ithaca Police Department. Chief Barber grew up in the Ithaca community, attended college locally, and has risen through the ranks of IPD from a rookie police officer to the Chief of Police. Along the way Chief Barber excelled as a Road Division Sergeant, Commander of the SWAT Team, Investigative Division Sergeant, and Deputy Chief of Police. Chief Barber has set forth several goals for the Ithaca Police Department, including implementing a School Resource Officer, increasing staffing levels and the development of a Professional Standards Division.

The Ithaca Police Department has undergone many changes since the original force of 4 officers and a chief in 1888. Today the 63 sworn officers of the Ithaca Police Department are better trained and equipped to deal with the myriad of problems that face them on a daily basis. However, over the past 115 years the mission of the police department has remained the same. To protect and to serve the citizens of Ithaca.
John Barber

Chief of Police Pete Tyler

Upon Chief Barber's retirement Deputy Chief of Police Pete Tyler became the Acting Chief of Police of the Ithaca Police Department.  Acting Chief of Police Tyler was a very close friend with Chief Barber and the two shared many similar visions of what could make the department successful in it's endeavors.  Acting Chief Tyler rose through the ranks at IPD, starting as a patrol officer and working through Sergeant, Lieutenant and Deputy Chief promotions.  On December 20, 2017 Pete Tyler was permanently appointed to the position of Chief of Police.  Throughout his service as a police officer Chief Tyler placed emphasis on expanding the foundations of community policing, maintaining a well-trained police department, and enhancing the department's accountability to the Ithaca community.  Chief Tyler supported the police officers under his command and he supported the community's right to be served by a police department wrought with professionalism and integrity.

Chief Pete Tyler

Chief of Police Dennis Nayor

On September 27, 2019, Dennis R. Nayor was sworn-in as the permanent Chief of Police for the City of Ithaca Police Department.  Prior to this, he served for over 21 years with the City of Oneonta Police Department, Oneonta, NY, where he served in the capacities of patrol officer, DARE Officer, patrol sergeant, interim detective sergeant, lieutenant, and ultimately chief of police for nearly five years. 

In January of 2017, Chief Nayor retired from the Oneonta Police Department to assume the role of Director of Research, Development, and Training for the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police.  In this capacity he assisted the organization in improving and advancing the policing profession while serving as a resource for all police chiefs and command level officers throughout New York State.  In his role, Chief Nayor focused his efforts on promoting the six pillars of professional 21st century policing by disseminating information and training that focused on: Building trust and legitimacy, education and training, social media and technology, community policing and crime prevention, policy development and oversight, and officer wellness and safety.

In realizing that he missed the mission of active law enforcement, Chief Nayor moved on from his role with the Chief’s Association to re-pursue a leadership role within municipal policing.  In September of 2018, Chief Nayor was recruited by Chief Tyler to serve as the Department’s Deputy Chief of Police in charge of professional standards.  In this capacity, he assisted in the overall leadership and advancement of the Ithaca Police Department prior to his appointment to Chief.

Chief Nayor holds a Master’s Degree in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership (LEPSL Program) from the University of San Diego, a Graduate Certificate from the University of Virginia in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor’s Degree from SUNY Geneseo in Political Science, and an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Hudson Valley Community College. He is a graduate of the 240th session of the FBI National Academy and is also a graduate of the FBI LEEDA Command Institute.  For much of his career, he has served as an avid instructor in defensive tactics, firearms, physical fitness, DARE, and general topics.

Through a positive and progressive leadership approach, Chief Nayor strived to support the professional development of all members of the Ithaca Police Department, while building strong collaborative relationships within the community.  With an emphasis towards diversity & inclusion, professionalism, accountability, and quality police services, Chief Nayor passionately followed the six pillars of professional 21st Century Policing as outlined above.

After 25 years of dedicated public service, and after leading the Ithaca Police Department through the most challenging time in modern history, Chief Nayor retired in April of 2021. He was especially proud of having had the opportunity to be part of the City of Ithaca Police Department and serving alongside some of the finest officers in the policing profession. Upon his retirement, Deputy Chief John Joly was named Acting Chief.

Chief Dennis Nayor