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Police
Officer Brian Carlson, a six-year veteran of the Yellow Springs police department, was named interim police chief on Monday, Jan. 23. He fills the vacancy left by former Chief David Hale, who resigned three weeks ago following the events of the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. (Photo by Audrey Hackett)

Officer Brian Carlson, a six-year veteran of the Yellow Springs police department, was named interim police chief on Monday, Jan. 23. He fills the vacancy left by former Chief David Hale, who resigned three weeks ago following the events of the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. (Photo by Audrey Hackett)

Yellow Springs Police Department’s Carlson named as interim chief

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There’s a new — but friendly and familiar — face in the police chief’s office at 100 Dayton St.

Yellow Springs Police Officer Brian Carlson has been named interim police chief of Yellow Springs, effective Tuesday, Jan. 24. Village Manager Patti Bates made the announcement late Monday, following a three-week search for an interim to replace former Chief David Hale, who resigned on Jan. 3 after controversial police actions at the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop.

Carlson was one of two finalists for the interim position, from a pool of five applicants, according to Bates. He is expected to serve for an undetermined period while the Village conducts a search for a permanent chief. That process could take up to six months and will involve input from the Village’s Justice System Task Force, Bates said this week.

“I love the town and the people, and I love this work,” Carlson said in an interview Tuesday regarding his appointment. 

Known to many in the village as “Officer Brian,” he joined the local force in 2010 as a full-time officer, and has served since then, though in a part-time capacity since 2014.

Carlson acknowledged that he was stepping into the interim role at a challenging time. Turnover in the Yellow Springs department has been high in recent years. And the New Year’s Eve incident, in which local police dispersed the crowd gathered for the annual downtown ball drop in a manner villagers found aggressive and hostile, has intensified concerns that officers seem disengaged from the community.

Carlson said his first priority was “repairing the relationship” between villagers and police.

“We need to be of the same fabric,” he said. “We’ve strayed.”

He cited some specific steps he planned to take, including putting officers on foot patrol, and occasionally bringing night officers into day shifts to enable them to get to know more business owners and residents.

“We’re going to have more foot patrol — not to walk around downtown and find trouble, but to make sure we’re not so alienated from each other,” he said.

And he promised an overall shift in policing approach, from a “command-style presence” to one that emphasizes officers’ role to help and serve the local community.

“We’re here to help. We need to remind people of that,” he said, adding that the local force has “good officers” who work hard at their jobs. 

Carlson’s community focus was an important factor in his selection, according to Manager Bates.

“One of the important things right now is to try to bridge the gap in understanding between the department and the community. Brian already has a leg up in filling that gap,” she said.

Bates and Village Council carried out the search for an interim chief, reviewing applications from five candidates and choosing two for further interviews, Carlson and retired Xenia Police Captain David Pazynski. (Pazynski had previously been one of two finalists for Yellow Springs chief in 2014, when Chief Hale was ultimately selected.) Last week’s interview offer to Pazynski was rescinded, however, due to concerns voiced by several villagers, according to Bates. A third choice, John Krug, was contacted for an interview instead.

Bates and Council members interviewed the two finalists during a special Village Council meeting executive session on Friday, Jan. 20, with Carlson’s appointment being announced on Monday, Jan. 23.

Carlson rose to the top because of his commitment to the local community and rapport with citizens and other officers, according to Council President Karen Wintrow this week. As an officer, Carlson has already shown himself to be a good fit for the village, treating people with respect and approaching situations in a “calm and rational” manner, she explained.

“He’s someone I’ve seen de-escalate and calm down situations,” she said, citing as one example his role in addressing issues between street musicians and downtown business owners when the Village’s street performer agreement was initially put into place.

And Wintrow praised Carlson’s visibility and accessibility within the community, something she expects will continue in his role as interim chief.

“You’re going to find him outside the car more than inside the car,” she said.

Trained in music and working for many years in architectural interiors and carpentry, Carlson came relatively late to police work, graduating at age 48 from the Sinclair Community College Police Academy. Yellow Springs is his first, and so far only, policing post.

Carlson said he transitioned to policing in order to “make a difference” in a community he loves. He and his wife of 30 years, Shannon, live in Xenia Township about seven minutes southeast of Yellow Springs. They have two daughters, Anna, 14, and Megan, 22, both of whom previously attended Mills Lawn School.

Carlson’s prior work experience includes the ownership of two carpentry-related small businesses, Opera Portables and CJ Bryson, Inc. He remains active in CJ Bryson, which does architectural interior modeling, including for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Carlson attended Western Kentucky University and the University of Cincinnati.

Though police work isn’t his first career, it’s his first love. “This was something I always wanted to do,” he said, recalling the positive role that police — on foot — played among youth when he was growing up in Chicago. He hopes to bring “a little bit of that old-school approach,” which he also witnessed under former Chief John Grote, back to Yellow Springs.

Manager Bates said this week that she viewed Carlson’s range of experience as an asset, notwithstanding his later start as an officer.

In 2014, Carlson was assigned as a detective to the ACE Task Force. Though initially interested in the post, “I knew instantly it wasn’t for me,” he said. He resigned as a full-time officer two months later, and has served the Village part-time ever since, until his new appointment.

Responses from community members to Carlson’s selection as a candidate for interim chief — even before he was named to the position — have been universally positive, according to Council President Wintrow.

“It validates our choice,” she said, adding that she hopes Carlson’s appointment lets villagers know Council is hearing, and acting on, their concerns.

“It’s the start of a different approach to the police department and the community,” Wintrow said.

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Yellow Springs Police Department’s Carlson named as interim chief

by Audrey Hackett