Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl is retiring after 13 years on the job which means the city will seek new leadership at a critical juncture for police reform efforts and at a time when law enforcement is under extra scrutiny.
“It has been the greatest honor in my professional career to serve as Police Chief for the City of Dayton and to work with the Dayton community to improve public safety,” Biehl said.
Lt. Col. Matt Carper will serve as acting police chief following Biehl’s retirement. Carper is in his 29th year with the Dayton Police Department.
Biehl thanked the Dayton community, elected officials and police for their support during his tenure.
“I salute you all for your overwhelming support, dedication and contributing efforts to making our community a safe place to work and live,” he said. “And now it is time for someone else to lead. And I leave them in good hands.”
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley noted that Biehl has led the city over some of its most challenging moments, including the mass shooting in the Oregon District and the deadly shooting of detective Jorge DelRio.
“He has shepherded the department through our current police reform process, making sure his officers were committed to listening carefully to residents as they worked together to create recommendations for how police can be more transparent and responsive to residents,” she said. “Clearly the work we’ve done on police reform, the 142 recommendations, would not have happened without Chief Biehl’s leadership and support through this.”
Whaley wished him a happy retirement, noting she’d miss him personally and that the community will miss his leadership.
Biehl earned rave reviews from many community members for how he and his department responded to tragedies and traumatic events including, more recently, the mass shooting in the Oregon District, the devastating Memorial Day tornadoes and a hate group’s rally downtown.
“The job of police chief is one of the most important roles for both the City organization and the community,” said Shelley Dickstein, Dayton City Manager. “Nationally, policing is at a crossroads, and I want to thank Chief Biehl for helping to lead the department through some very difficult conversations and situations in recent years.”
Biehl had a reputation for studying law enforcement research and crime patterns and trends and he was a strong advocate for community policing.
He won over some community members with impassioned pleas against violence and support of legislative actions like gun control measures, and he also built relationships by attending community events and hosting yoga classes.
Critics, however, have accused Biehl of ignoring community-developed police reform recommendations in the past and claimed he wasn’t actually as progressive as his public statements might suggest.
Biehl was sworn in as Dayton’s 16th police chief in January 2008 following a national search and an intensive interview process that involved community input. He previously served as Cincinnati’s assistant police chief after working as a police officer in the Queen City from 1980 to 2004.
Before coming to Dayton, Biehl served as the executive director of Cincinnati’s Community Police Partnering Center, a nonprofit group established to connect community stakeholders with Cincinnati police.
Biehl made a strong impression when he was interviewed for Dayton’s top cop job by panels consisting of law enforcement officials, priority board members, citizens and business leaders.
City officials praised what they said was Biehl’s track record for bringing police and community members together and his “talent” for community engagement.
Biehl fulfilled a promise he made when he was hired to stay on the job for the long-term.
Before Biehl was hired, Dayton had two police chiefs in the previous six years. Biehl told media Tuesday that he had made a commitment to stay at least five years and planned to retire last year before the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest in the city.
Biehl was proud of the work he did to connect with kids during events like a summer camp where he taught yoga, martial arts and gardening.
Dickstein said the search for Dayton’s next chief will start this month and that the city will have an “open search with robust community input.”
A Dayton police reform group focused on recruitment and promotion last month recommended the city involve community members in the selection of the next police chief.
The group has asked the city to let community members help create the description of the position and include “reform orientation” as a requirement of the job.
The police reform committee also recommended that community members take part in the interview process and members of the reform committees should be involved in the hiring process.
The community should get an opportunity to question and engage with police chief candidates who make the final cut, and the police department needs a leader who is committed to improving diversity on the force, said Travis Dunnington, a member of the reform committee.
The city should look for “someone who can carry on … making this department look more like the community and act like they’re serving the community,” he said.
Ellis Jacobs, another member of the reform committee, said the community and the city can learn a lot about candidates by having them interact with each other.
Ken Couch, Dayton’s human resource director, previously said he has reached out to an executive search firm the city has used for the last six years to help with replacement hires.
Couch said he asked the search firm to provide information about how it has included community engagement in police chief recruiting efforts.
He said it’s important the community has “input, a stake and buy-in” in the police chief selection process.
Whaley said communities across the country have had failed police chief searches lately.
Some people say the candidate pool for police chiefs in larger cities has gotten smaller and the search processes have received additional scrutiny.
Biehl has been criticized by some community members, including Jared Grandy, one of the Dayton City Commission candidates and the former community-police relations coordinator.
Grandy said Biehl was not open to real community-supported reforms in the police department but he carefully cultivated an image of a progressive leader.
On Monday, the Dayton City Commission announced the members of the Police Reform Implementation Committee, which will monitor the implementation of working group recommendations over a six-month period.
The committee will have two roles, according to the city:
1. Receive updates on implementation of working group recommendations from city staff and ensure they are being implemented in alignment with the working group’s intentions; and
2. Give feedback on a process for setting up a long-term accountability structure, including recruitment of long-term participants.
The Police Reform Working Groups made recommendations to create a new long-term accountability structure to strengthen and expand community engagement and oversight of policing issues. Recommendations that are not fully implemented by the end of the six-month implementation period will be monitored by the appropriate long-term committee in this new structure.
As the recommendation phase of the police reform process came to an end, volunteers from each working group were solicited to sit on the Implementation Committee. The committee members, along with their original working group assignments, are below:
Paul Bradley, Oversight
Daj’za Demmings, Oversight
Carla Maragano, Oversight
Angelina Jackson, Use-of-Force
Jeff Jackson, Use-of-Force
Atta Shahid, Use-of-Force
Nicole “Niki” Van Kirk, Use-of-Force
Julio Mateo, Training
Ann Charles Watts, Training
Mattie White, Training
Travis T. Dunnington, Recruitment, Promotions, and Discipline
Natasha R. Spears, Recruitment, Promotions, and Discipline
Cornell D. Trammell, Jr., Recruitment, Promotions, and Discipline
Youssef A Elzein, Community Engagement
David K. Greer, Community Engagement
Marcie Sherman, Community Engagement
The Implementation Committee will meet regularly over the next six months. Meetings will be live-streamed at daytonohio.gov/govtv. The final list of recommendations from the reform committees is available at www.daytonohio.gov/recommendations.