Thirteen Years as Your Police Chief: A Remembrance Comments at Veterans Administration Honoring My Service as Police Chief – May 2020

By Richard S. Biehl, Police Chief (RET)

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

It has been the greatest honor of my professional life to serve as the police chief for the city of Dayton and to serve the Dayton community. The past decade plus has been filled with many, many public safety challenges within our community – with the City of Dayton government, the Dayton Police Department, as well me in my role as police chief, sharing the responsibility to respond to them. I will share with you at this time, a not so short list of some of the many challenges that we have faced and currently face in pursuing the mission of improved public safety.

  • January 28th, 2008, I was sworn in as police chief.
    • Congratulatory gift – the beginning of the Great Recession. There were 416 sworn personnel and 99 civilians at that time – those numbers would dwindle to 324 sworn officers and 49 civilian personnel by 2012.
    • Three officer involved shootings in May 2008 and another in July of that year that presented community challenges.
      • The DOJ Community Relations Service was asked to assist in community dialogues to navigate through the challenge. I subsequently announced a five-point plan to reduce the potential for such tragic incidents.
    • October 2008, DOJ announced a lawsuit over police/fire hiring practices governed by the Civil Service Commission.
    • There would be no new police recruit class for more than four years as hiring processes were negotiated, revised and implemented.
  • October 2010, a new City Manager was announced and it a meeting with me, prior to his formal appointment, I presented a one-page overview of organizational changes that were needed to prevent compromising the DPD’s ability to fulfill its public safety mission
  • December 2010, DPD moved to Regional Dispatch and Court Detail was subsequently civilianized allowing the redeployment of 22 sworn personnel to offset the personnel declines of the prior three years.
  • 2011, the DROP plan limits impacted retirements. That year 47 sworn personnel retired.
    • In January, knowing the impact of the loss of so many veteran police officers and its combined effect on staffing while there was a hiring freeze, the DPD implemented a reorganization that changed its structure from five police districts to three Patrol Divisions and decentralized property crime investigations. Other changes were made in service to maintain response capability.
    • Camera traffic enforcement was expanded to include speeding. Auto accidents declined, including injury and fatal accidents until this program was decimated in 2014 by a hostile state legislature that continued to pass legislation in violation of home rule that severely restricted municipalities from the continued use of this technology. The COD was later successful in winning its case before the Ohio Supreme Court that the legislature have overstepped its constitutional bounds. During a two-year enforcement hiatus, auto accidents – both property and injury accidents – increased by 40% and fatalities nearly doubled.

Midyear, 20-year-old Kylen English, escaped from custody while being transported to jail and jumped from the Salem Avenue Bridge, falling to his death. There were accusations of police brutality and concerns of a police cover-up expressed by some community members. Fortunately, the transporting officer recorded the jail transport, and a private citizen observed the incident and posted a comment within minutes of it occurring confirming police accounts of an extraordinary escape that resulted in a tragic death. DOJ CRS personnel were once again requested to travel to Dayton to facilitate community and police dialogues about this tragedy. Chief Biehl and Lt. Andy Booher present a Dayton Police patch to the Deputy Police Chief in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (July 2016)

    • In 2011, the Dayton Police Department would receive the first of two Community Policing Awards bestowed by the international Association of Chiefs of Police for the Belmont HS disorder reduction project.
    • At year end, the COD had experienced the largest decline in violent crime in a decade.
  • Between 2011 and 2013 there was a complete turnover of senior command staff (major and above) – in fact there were nine appointments to the six senior command staff positions in an approximate two-year period.
    • I made an urgent plea in late 2013 to retain the services of Assistant Chief Bob Chabali to ensure a baseline of organizational stability during this significant transition. Assistant Chief Chabali was granted an exception to the city ordinance prohibiting retire/rehire and serviced as Assistant Police Chief until February 2016.

Beginning in 2012, OD deaths began to escalate countywide with about half of the deaths in the City of Dayton. The opioid crisis would worsen through 2017 when 566 community members in Montgomery County died from opioid-related ingestion. During this time, I worked with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to shape national strategies in response to the opioid epidemic. Chief Biehl demonstrates a front kick during “Yogarate” – a combination of yoga and martial arts at the Police & Youth Together camp. (Summer 2020)

  • In 2014, I became engaged in the national immigration debate as it relates to the role of local law enforcement. I became one of the initial members of Bibles, Badges & Business and went to Capitol Hill in October 2014 to lobby elected officials on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. I subsequently testified before a House subcommittee in 2015 opposing a House resolution to punish “sanctuary cities” instead of the legislature doing the necessary work to overhaul and unworkable immigration system.
  • In 2015, the DPD received its second IACP Community Policing award for the Downtown Engagement Project an intervention to engage those persons who suffer from homelessness, mental illness, and drug dependency to connect them to needed services rather than the revolving door of jail.
  • There were some crime upticks in 2015 – 2016 without clear indication why. However, 2017 posted the largest declines in all crime categories in more than a decade.
  • I spent more time in Washington in 2018, participating in a Congressional briefing on the national increase in violent crime in 2015-2016.

And then there was 2019 and 2020…

I have said repeatedly that there are two words that have been absent in my vocabulary these past 13+ years – bored or under-challenged. Fortunately, I have been blessed to work with exceptional men and women in blue, who met these challenges with grit, determination, professionalism, and a deep commitment to public service. Their efforts have garnered national and international recognition for exemplary achievements in community policing, problem-solving efforts to reduce crime and disorder, and valor in the face of incredible danger to protect members of our community, even at the risk of their lives.

The level of professionalism, commitment and sacrifice by the men and women of the Dayton Police Department was made most evident in 2019, by the ultimate sacrifice by Detective Jorge Del Rio who died while valiantly trying to protect this community and beyond from the distribution of a massive quantity of illicit drugs.

I have been impressed repeatedly in the ability of the men and women of the Dayton Police Department, with support of our administrative and professional staff – in partnership with our community – to make substantial contributions to the safety and well-being of our community with limited resources to do so.

Quite simply, I am grateful for the opportunity given to me to serve as police chief and the consistent support I and the men and women of the Dayton Police Department have received from the community, elected officials, city administrators and most certainly today, the administration and staff of the Dayton VA Medical Center. I salute you for your overwhelming support, dedication and contributing efforts to making our community a safer place to work, live and play and for serving the men and women in uniformed services who have defended American interests and the cause of freedom around the globe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Biehl is the former Director and Chief of Police of the Dayton Police Department. He was appointed to this position by City Manager Rashad Young on January 28, 2008, and retired on July 30, 2021, after spending 13+ years as Chief of Police and nearly 43 years in public and community service.

Chief Biehl served 24+ years as a Cincinnati Police Officer and for the last six years of his Cincinnati career as an Assistant Police Chief. He commanded both the Investigations Bureau and the Administration Bureau. His principle areas of responsibility included Internal Investigations, Planning & Special Projects, Youth Services, Criminal Investigation, General Vice Control, and Intelligence.

In February 2004, he was appointed as the first Executive Director of the Community Police Partnering Center, a private nonprofit organization. Created in the aftermath of the civil unrest of 2001, the Partnering Center was established to work in partnership with the Cincinnati Police Department to train community stakeholders in problem solving methodologies to address community crime and disorder problems. In addition to leading many neighborhood crime reduction initiatives, in 2006 while Executive Director, Richard Biehl led the implementation of CeaseFire Cincinnati, a neighborhood gun violence reduction initiative using a public health approach for violence reduction modeled after CeaseFire Chicago and which led to reduced violence in the Avondale community.

As Police Chief for the Dayton Police Department, Chief Biehl partnered with the Trotwood Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in 2008 to support community engagement in the Community Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence (CIRGV), a gun violence reduction initiative modeled after the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, which resulted in reduction of group-related homicides in Dayton and surrounding communities.

Under his leadership, the Dayton Police Department received the following professional recognition:

  • Finalist for the 2010, 2011, & 2015 Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem Oriented Policing.
  • Recipient of the 2011 Ohio Crime Prevention Association’s Special Project Award.
  • Recipient of the International Association Chiefs of Police Cisco Community Policing Award, 2011 and 2015.
  • Chief Biehl was the 2011 recipient of the OACP (Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police) Chief Michael Kelly Excellence and Innovation in Policing Award and also the recipient of the 2014 Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau Ambassadors Award for bringing the International Problem Oriented Policing Conference to Dayton in October 2013.
  • In September 2019, President Trump awarded the Department of Justice Medal of Valor to Sergeant William Chad Knight and officers Brian Rolfes, Jeremy Campbell, Vincent Carter, Ryan Nabel and David Denlinger for their quick, decisive, and courageous engagement of the Oregon District mass shooting assailant, ending the tragic onslaught in 32 seconds.
  • In October 2019 at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, President Donald Trump asked Chief Biehl and Assistant Chief Matt Carper to join him on stage in recognition of the brave acts of the six members of the Dayton Police Department that responded to the Oregon District mass shooting.

Chief Biehl was a former competitive powerlifter and martial artist and his athletic pursuits included regional, national, and international sporting events spanning 1976 to 1992.

Nearly 30 years ago, Chief Biehl began to practice yoga as a means to emerge from two years of chronic depression. In 2015, Chief Biehl authored the chapter, Trauma in the Theater of the Body, that was published in the book, Moving Consciously: Somatic Transformation through Dance, Yoga, and Touch (2015), and which discusses the potential of yoga to mitigate and heal trauma. In 2020, Chief Biehl completed a master’s degree in Mindfulness Studies at Lesley University. He has presented an introduction to mindfulness practice to several conferences and local workshops. He incorporates mindfulness within this yoga teaching.

 

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