A Tribute to a Unique Leader in Law Enforcement Chief (Retired) Richard Biehl Dayton Police Department
City of Dayton, Ohio

By COL (RET) Kathy T. Platoni, PsyD, DAAPM, FAIS

*This is an article from the Spring 2022 issue of Combat Stress

A stunning example of triumph over tragedy will comprise the pages that follow and serve as a profoundly intimate glimpse into the life and imposing and selfless public service of the Dayton Chief of Police during his record 13-year term. Chief Biehl is the epitome of what leadership in law enforcement should look like, demonstrating a degree of moral integrity in policing that I am quite sure remains comparatively unmatched in the first responder community. His acts truly tended to the common good of the City of Dayton as a servant leader, who strove to erase the delineation between one of the most embattled and violent small communities in the nation and those charged with keeping the peace.

Chief Biehl is exclusive in his accomplishments too abundant to mention, as a competitive power lifter and martial artist on an international level and with respect to his 30 plus years of commitment to the practice of yoga as a means of conquering chronic depression. He has been the PD’s go to for the teachings of yoga to new recruits in the Dayton Police Academy and the entirety of the PD for an enormous push for health promotion. Earning his master’s degree in Mindfulness Studies from Lesley University in 2020, he has authored book chapters and presented his teachings at conferences and conventions from coast to coast. Yoga and law enforcement are no longer mutually exclusive in this town, thanks to his wise philosophies and promotion of health and wellness on a grand scale.

Chief Biehl teaches yoga to Miami Valley youth at the Police & Youth Together camp at the Dayton FOP lodge. (Summer of 2020)

The truth is that Chief Biehl far exceeds what would be considered unique. He has heart and hoards of it, infused with a love for the humanity of the law enforcement community like nobody’s business. For a police chief to confide in a psychologist during the hellfire and fury following such explosive events as those that have befallen the Dayton community is extraordinary, both as an enormous step forward in combatting the mental health crisis enveloping the men and women in blue and as a great privilege within the psychology community.


Retirement Ceremony for Chief Richard Biehl with SWAT Doc Kathy Platoni. (July 2021)

In the face of one of the most horrific mass shootings in U.S. history, a paralyzed community looked to Chief Biehl to make sense out of the senseless and to draw the devastated multitudes back from dismal days that darkened the lives of the entire populace of Dayton and surrounding communities; all this in the aftermath of 16 tornadoes that leveled large areas of the City of Dayton and numerous neighboring municipalities and an Honored Sacred Knights rally just prior to the touchdown of Mother Nature’s wrath. In September of 2019, one month following this mass shooting, President Trump presented the Department of Justice Medal of Valor to those six officers who fired their weapons to apprehend the shooter within 32 brief seconds. In the months following, Chief Biehl was again honored on a global scale at the International Association of Police Chiefs conference by President Trump for the extraordinarily heroic deeds of his six officers who apprehended the shooter during the Oregon District Mass Shooting.


Cincinnati Police Chief, Eliot Isaac, and Chief Biehl proudly pose with newly promoted Cincinnati Police Sergeant Christopher Sulton. Chris is Chief Biehl’s son. (December 2020)

It is undoubtedly among Chief Biehl’s most astounding deeds when he led the entirety of the City of Dayton and the Dayton Police Department from the depths of catastrophe and heartbreak after the line of duty death of Detective Jorge Del Rio. If you take nothing else from this tribute section, please take 9 minutes of your time to listen to his eulogy for Detective Del Rio, set to the scenes taken from his funeral memorial. His words, to this day, remain emblazoned upon the minds of everyone in attendance and left police officers from all corners of this country weeping in solidarity.


Dan Kirsch and Chief Biehl pose for a quick photo at the Dayton FOP lodge during an Alpha-Stim pilot study involving nearly 100 Dayton Police Officers. (October 2018)

Shortly after Chief Biehl’s Final Roll Call and retirement from public service, he shared with us that with the advent of vitriol and movement to defund, demolish and annihilate the police, the joys of policing had ceased to be for him. From this came a wrenching awareness of how not only the public trust in the police has dwindled to the point of depletion at the hands of extremists who grossly misplaced and targeted blame without cause, but the low point to which we have sunk as a society.

It is under Chief Biehl’s sponsorship and guidance that I was personally gifted an honor infrequently bestowed upon mental health professionals, one far beyond all of my dreams and expectations as a clinical psychologist. It is thanks to Chief Biehl that I have served on Dayton SWAT (as a SWAT doc) and as the psychologist for the Dayton Police Department for the past 16 years. It is also the likes of this extraordinary leader that my psychologist position has expanded to coverage of 36 police departments and 5 fire departments. I am far beyond blessed to have had these life-changing experiences, but to call Chief Biehl and his significant other, Peggy, as lifelong and beloved friends.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Theresa Platoni, PsyD, DAIPM, FAIS

Clinical Psychologist

Colonel, Retired, US Army

Colonel, Ohio Military Reserve/State Defense Forces

Dayton SWAT

Director of Support Services, Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Lodge 117

Editor, Combat Stress Magazine

Dr. Kathy Platoni has been a practicing clinical psychologist for 40 years and maintains her private practice in Centerville, Ohio. In service of her country and as an Army Reserve clinical psychologist, she has deployed on four occasions in time of war. Dr. Platoni served as commander of the 1972nd Medical Detachment (Combat Stress Control) at Guantanamo Bay Cuba from 2003-2004, where combat stress control became a critical element of the Joint Task Force mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the Global War on Terrorism.  Having volunteered to return to active duty within weeks of her redeployment from Joint Task Force-GTMO, Dr. Platoni deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, holding the position of Deputy Commander of Clinical Services for the 55th Medical Company (CSC) in Baghdad and seven subsequent locations, finally as Officer in Charge of Team Ar Ramadi, situated the seat of the insurgency and during times of intensive combat. At the invitation of the 3rd Brigade Commander, 3rd Infantry Division upon the conclusion of her tour of duty in the wartime theater, Dr. Platoni reported to the Home of the Infantry, Fort Benning, Georgia for an additional six-month mission in order to provide for the reintegration services of the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment due to elevated numbers of psychological casualties among combat arms soldiers. Dr. Platoni was last deployed to the combat theater of Afghanistan from 2009 through late 2010 with the 467th Medical Detachment (Combat Stress Control) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, serving as Clinical Advisor for the medical detachment and Officer in Charge of Team Wilson, Kandahar Province, and Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan.  She was assigned to the 1493rd Medical Detachment (CSC) in Cary, North Carolina until the time of her retirement. As a survivor of the tragic Ft. Hood Massacre in November of 2009, she is an ardent activist for reconsideration of this shooting incident as an act of terrorism to assure that the wounded and the families of the deceased are awarded long overdue benefits and was very instrumental in the awarding of the Purple Heart Medal to the Fort Hood wounded and to the families of those who lost their lives on that tragic day.

Dr. Platoni is a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges (BS, 1974), the University of Miami (MEd, 1975), and the School of Professional Psychology of Nova University (now Nova Southeastern University) in Davie, Florida (PsyD, 1985). Subsequent to the conclusion of her doctoral studies under the auspices of the United States Army’s Health Professionals Scholarship Program, she completed her internship on active duty Army status at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas in 1984. From 1984 through 1987, she served as Chief of Psychology at DeWitt Army Community Hospital, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. During her more than three decades of both active and Army Reserve status, including a six-month tour of duty during Operation Desert Storm, Dr. Platoni developed combat stress control, debriefings and crisis management programs utilized throughout the U.S. Army. She held the position of Army Reserve Clinical Psychology Consultant to the Chief, Medical Service Corp (Chief Psychologist for the Army Reserve pro bono) for six years and is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College. Dr. Platoni retired from the US Army with the rank of Colonel in October of 2013.

Dr. Platoni maintains an appointment as Assistant Clinical Professor with the School of Professional Psychology, Wright State University. She is a skilled hypnotherapist and possesses expertise in the sub-specialty areas of behavioral medicine and the treatment of chronic pain and chronic, debilitating, and terminal illnesses. Due to her father’s exposure to radiation during the bombing of Nagasaki during World War II, she was born with congenital defects that have required extensive maxillofacial (bone) reconstructive and bone grafting procedures. No stranger to chronic pain herself, Dr. Platoni has undergone 60 major and minor surgeries over the course of the last 24 years to correct these defects, 18 of them with hypnosis as the sole anesthetic. Her last major plastic surgery was featured in a segment of ABC News “20/20” in 1999. She is in the process of completing a series of scholarly articles on this subject and has also published in a number of professional and lay journals on topics relating to Gulf War Syndrome, the psychological aftermath of the events of “9/11”, and professional/medical ethics. Two landmark books, written and edited by Dr. Raymond Scurfield and Dr. Platoni on the subject of war trauma, Expanding the Circle of Healing – Trauma in Its Wake and Healing War Trauma – A Handbook of Creative Approaches, were published in 2012. She was awarded Diplomate status by the American Academy of Pain Management and was recently appointed Fellow of the American Institute of Stress and awarded distinguished membership in the Institute of Traumatic Stress 2013 Board of Scientific and Professional Advisors. In addition, Dr. Platoni holds professional memberships in the Ohio Psychological Association, the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, the Society of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, the Dayton Area Psychological Association, and International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. She has served in the position as Editor of the Combat Stress Magazine since 2014.

Since the “9/11” tragedy and attacks on the United States, Dr. Platoni voluntarily deployed to New York City on two occasions in order to provide disaster mental health and critical incident stress debriefing services to members of the New York City Police Department. In 2017, she deployed to hurricane-ravaged Florida to provide disaster mental health services with the American Red Cross and in May and June of 2019, in support of tornado relief in the aftermath of 15 tornadoes that devastated the area of Southwest Ohio in which she resides. She currently serves as the Dayton Police Department SWAT psychologist and Mental Health Advisor to the Dayton Hostage Negotiation Team.

As a nationally renowned expert in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Dr. Platoni has been featured in Fox News, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, US News and World Report, AP News, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Washington Post, NPR Radio, Stars and Stripes, San Antonio Express News, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, The Ohio Psychologist, the Wall Street Journal, TIME Magazine, Military Times, and The National Psychologist.

 

For her professional contributions to the field of psychology and decades of humanitarian service, Dr. Platoni was awarded a lifetime achievement award by her alma mater, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in 2008 and was selected for the very prestigious Dayton’s Ten Top Women Award for the Class of 2012. She was awarded the Legacy Award for community service and volunteerism in the Southwest Ohio area in April of 2013. She was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious service by the United States Army on 19 July 2014. Dr. Platoni was the recipient of the 2016 IVAT Returning Veterans Resiliency in Response to Trauma Award. This award is given by the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma (IVAT) to a Veteran who has experienced specific trauma in war and whose efforts and advocacy have had a notably restorative impact on a traumatized population. Dr. Platoni was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in November of 2019 for her numerous contributions to the Veteran and law enforcement communities. In November of 2020, Dr. Platoni was a recipient of the Ford Oval of Honor Award, again, for now more than four decades of military and tireless community service. Honored once again by the Dayton, Ohio community, Dr. Platoni was selected as the recipient of the 2020, 2021, 2022 Best of Dayton Psychologists, this year entering her into the Dayton Business Hall of Fame. Dr. Platoni will be inducted into the Greene County Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in April of 2022.

COL Platoni was retired from the 4th Civil Support and Sustainment Brigade, Ohio Military Reserve, in September of 2021 after six years of dedicated service as the Brigade Psychologist. She has been once again retained as the retiree psychologist for the Ohio Naval Militia/State Defense Forces; this her 41st year of military service.

 

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