Village police to bulk up slim staff
- Published: October 4, 2012
One evening last month Yellow Springs Police officer Jeff Kimpan responded to a call at a home in the village. When he arrived he found a man and a woman, both intoxicated, verbally fighting and threatening to get violent. The officer’s taser malfunctioned, and as he was covering the shift alone, he radioed for backup and waited 20 minutes for a Greene County Sheriff deputy to arrive. He spent the intervening time talking the couple out of their rage, praying he would not be forced to use his gun.
The Village police department is currently down a few officers. The department typically fields a team of eight full-time and a half dozen part-time officers to safely cover the village’s security needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently, there are six full-time officers and less than three active part-time officers, many of whom are being stretched to their limit and are often asked to cover shifts alone.
“We’ve got too much time with just one officer on duty, and it’s becoming a safety issue where our officers are spread too thin,” Interim Police Chief Arthur Scott said.
The current group of officers is also relatively new to the field of policing. The most experienced full-time officer has just six years in the field, and the department has only one sergeant, Dennis Nipper, who is a part-time officer. The result is that few are able to take authority in the absence of the chief, Scott said.
“We need experienced people to fill these slots,” Scott said in an interview last week. “We need shift commanders — someone on shift with authority who can take responsibility for the department and be held accountable.”
The Village lost two officers earlier this year when Andrew Gault resigned to take another job in May and veteran sergeant Tom Jones retired in July. Scott, who replaced former Police Chief John Grote in February, has waited to fill the slots so he could observe what the department’s needs were. After six months, he is convinced that what the young department needs is experience. The department plans to hire two full-time police officers and one full-time dispatcher in the coming months, Scott said.
Current officers Naomi Penrod, Patrick Roegner and David Meister are holding down the fort with the help of three newer officers, Jeff Kimpan, Brian Carlson and Tom Sexton. Part-time officers include Nipper, Al Pierce and Doug Andrus (who is currently on leave), with occasional support from Tom Knickerbocker.
The three new full-time officers spoke with the News earlier this month about their experiences and their policing philosophies.
Brian Carlson did not start out in life with the goal of becoming a police officer. Growing up in Chicago and various places in the Midwest, where his father was assigned as a Presbyterian minister, he became interested in building things. He moved to Cincinnati to study music, and then worked as a carpenter for several years before he began designing trade show displays for companies like Dow Chemical. The transition to architecture was a natural one that led to a 15-year co-ownership of CJBryson, Inc., a small firm that contracts with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
And then there is policing.
While Carlson, 50, enjoys architecture, he wanted to engage in a more meaningful and people-oriented way, and thought he could do some good in the police field. His parents had “devoted their lives to social justice,” and he felt called to follow in that tradition, he said. Yellow Springs is his first post.
“This is something that has always interested me — being able to give back,” Carlson said in an interview earlier this month.
Carlson finds his job here, which he started this summer, extremely rewarding. From the simple acts, such as helping someone locked out of a house, to the more dramatic incidents, such as advocating for a child in a troubled home, policing gives Carlson a sense that at the end of the day he has done something positive to help the community.
His life experience has also given him a perspective for understanding how someone could lose a job, get a divorce, or experience a crisis and end up making a poor choice that gets them into trouble, he said. Instead of coming down on people in those situations, he would rather mediate the conflict and help the “offender” deal with the root problem.
“I’ve learned a lot as a parent that it’s a lot easier if help is directed from a positive tone,” he said. “They understand if they think you understand, which helps, especially in a highly emotional situation, not to escalate things.”
One area Carlson feels especially committed to is being there for the village youth. He hopes to build stronger relationships with parents and teens and to use the connection to anticipate needs and resolve issues before they become full-blown criminal incidents. By talking to parents and working with them early, Carlson believes some of the problems with alcohol, drugs and self-inflicted harm can be addressed from a proactive, preventive angle, involving social workers and professionals who can help.
“We don’t want teens to get in trouble,” he said, explaining that instead of citing them into the criminal justice system, he prefers to work with them and their families to root out the causes of their issues. “Call us, let us know what we can do to help.”
Carlson lives in Xenia Township with his wife and two daughters, one of whom attends school at Mills Lawn.
In between the small Ohio town he grew up in and the one he now works for, Yellow Springs Police officer Tom Sexton has experienced some intense security and enforcement situations. As a 22-year-old military police officer, Sexton was deployed to the Middle East for the first of three tours he would serve for the U.S. Air Force between 2005 and 2010. He was first stationed at an undisclosed location before serving a tense year at Camp Bucca detention facility, trying to quell riots and maintain order among the 15,000 Iraqis being held there for suspected terrorism. Then he served a comfortable year getting to know the Iraqi Kurds in the wealthy province of Kirkuk.
The experience was good, but Sexton is glad to be back in Ohio, engaged in a very different kind of policing in the village. He joined the YSPD last month and will stay in training for another month, but his toothy grin and quick repartée has helped him to meet people and get a feel for village life.
“Yellow Springs is very entertaining, and I love the people,” he said in an interview last week.
Sexton came from a law enforcement family. His father was a Highland County sheriff’s deputy, and his mother a dispatcher for the Hillsboro Police Department. As a child he loved hearing stories his father would tell about his patrols.
“I couldn’t wait for him to get home and tell stories about his day, about the hitchhikers he helped get to the county line or the person with car trouble he helped out,” Sexton recalled.
It was inevitable that he would follow the law enforcement path. And with a brother serving with security forces at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and his wife Milissa working as a teacher, Sexton said he knew he couldn’t get away with anything anyway.
“I knew I could never lie,” he said.
Sexton’s first post was with the Village of Lynchburg police, where he was for six months before moving to Xenia and joining YSPD. Yellow Springs is definitely a change from Southeastern Ohio, where “it’s all big trucks and rebel flags,” he said. And while his heart will always be where he grew up, he plans to stay in Greene County, whose slower pace of life he prefers.
Sexton still maintains his status as an air force reserve officer, which requires one weekend of service each month and an additional two weeks each year. Since the military has been in a downsizing mode, he doesn’t anticipate any extra duties for a while and anticipates being able to focus on the community policing job he likens to customer service.
“Law enforcement is like the customer service you get at a [restaurant],” he said. “There’s a menu of services we offer to help people with problems in the community. Sometimes people just want to talk, and so we’ll take on that role, put on that hat. I’m really looking forward to this.”
Contrary to what one might expect, Yellow Springs is a very active town in which to police, according to officer Jeff Kimpan. After a year and a half with a department in Montgomery County where it was nonstop “gangs, violence, heroin — the fun stuff,” Kimpan thought Yellow Springs would be pretty quiet. But after just six months in the village, he’s walked in on an armed robbery, been attacked by a man with a baseball bat, revived a juvenile who overdosed in a field, and helped a young woman who was severely injured in a car accident on State Route 343.
“Yellow Springs is crazy, you never know what you’re gonna find,” Kimpan said. “I pulled up on Corry Street at 3 a.m. one morning and the stop sign in front of Williams Eatery was on fire.”
It’s been busy, to say the least. And the best part of policing in a small town is the opportunity to follow up, develop relationships with people, and help people in ways that are lasting, for the long term, Kimpan said.
“I get involved with people,” he said, explaining that it’s in his personal nature to care. It’s not police policy to do so, but Kimpan worries about those he’s helped, and will visit them in hospital on his day off, for instance, or ask them how they are when he sees them in town. He hopes especially youth will trust him enough to talk to him about their issues before they start self-destructive behaviors.
“There’s a time to police, and there’s a time to be a friend. I want kids to feel they can talk to me,” he said. “I’m here to help.”
It’s that concern for others’ wellbeing that convinces Kimpan that certain kinds of preventive policing are perhaps the most important thing he can do for the community. Village police offer rides home for intoxicated patrons of the local bars, for instance, to try to prevent or at least reduce the incidence of drunk driving. People use the service, Kimpan said, and he believes it makes a tangible difference in keeping the roads safer.
Kimpan’s father was a U.S. Air Force military officer, and he grew up in Lakenheath, England and later Ramstein, Germany, where he graduated high school. He had a daughter when he was still a teenager himself, and after graduating from college started his own commercial and residential construction business in southern Ohio. He ran the business for 16 years to make enough money to decide that what he really wanted to do was help people.
Kimpan, who lives in Bellbrook, is quite pleased to work in Yellow Springs.
“I love this village, I love the community, the ideals, the diversity, the arts,” he said. “I enjoy people, I’m very community driven, and I’ve found that it really is a good feeling when you help people.”