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One week before closing the application deadline on Nov. 24, the Village narrowed its search for police chief significantly, naming two finalists out of the current pool of 18 applicants. (Left, submitted photo; right, Lauren Heaton)

One week before closing the application deadline on Nov. 24, the Village narrowed its search for police chief significantly, naming two finalists out of the current pool of 18 applicants. (Left, submitted photo; right, Lauren Heaton)

Finalists named for Yellow Springs police chief

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One week before closing the application deadline on Nov. 24, the Village narrowed its search for police chief significantly, naming two finalists out of the current pool of 18 applicants. Finalists David Hale, currently interim Yellow Springs police chief, and David Pazynski, a Xenia Police captain,  attended the Yellow Springs Police Department’s meet and greet on Monday, introducing themselves as the favored candidates for the position. 

According to Village Manager Patti Bates on Monday, she and the 13-member chief search committee reviewed the applications independently and ranked them based on the criteria from both the Village and the community policing forum that occurred Oct. 23. When they convened as a group, Bates said, they all agreed on the same top two or three candidates. Bates refrained from saying much more about her and the committee’s selections, as the application process is technically still open for another half week. 

“Given what we were looking at, these two candidates were the most qualified,” she said. 

But if in the end she and the committee decide they didn’t get the kind of applicant they were looking for, Bates said she remains open to continuing the search.

“If we decide we don’t like what we have, we’ll start a new search from scratch,” she said on Monday.  

Of the 16 candidates who were eliminated from the search last week, two were local and one was a long-time sergeant at the department. Dennis Nipper retired from the department in 2010 after 38 years of service in the village, 15 as sergeant, and currently works part-time for the local force. Dave Meister came to the department in 2009 after 10 years with the State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, where he also served three years as a reserve officer with the City of Arlington Police Department.

In brief interviews after Monday’s meet and greet event, both Pazynski and Hale spoke about their law enforcement experience and desire to serve in Yellow Springs. 

Pazynski, 48, has 23 years of law enforcement experience, including 10 as a patrol sergeant and five as a command supervisor (captain) with the Xenia Police Department. He holds a bachelor of arts degree  in criminal psychology and is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command. He is also fluent in Spanish.

Pazynski said that he and his family live on Trebein Road and have always spent time in the restaurants and shops in the village. He has long thought of Yellow Springs as his “go-to place” if ever a leadership position became available. 

“I’m not looking to be chief anywhere else,” he said, adding that he never has applied for a chief position before this time. “When the position came open, I knew it was the right time for me in my career.”

In response to questions about experience with mediation and de-escalation law enforcement practices, Pazynski said that he has been licensed as a crisis intervention trainer and has taken courses in “verbal judo,” a tactical communication technique for de-escalation. His academic background in criminal psychology would also inform his methods for interacting with and deflecting violent or aggressive people, he said.

Regarding his experience with alternative practices such as restorative justice, Pazynski believes that perhaps the public misunderstands that police are the enforcement branch of justice, while judges are the judicial branch and in this case Village Council is the legislative branch. Police have some discretion but are limited in the actions they can take within their role as enforcers, he said. 

“A lot of people think we should be giving justice out,” but that’s not the case,” he said. “The judicial side can do restorative justice.”

Pazynski attended last month’s policing forum, where he “really got a feeling for what the village wants,” which is, he believes, for officers to get out and get to know the community, the business owners, the youth, the schools and teachers. If selected for the job, he plans to be out much of the time himself, getting to know local citizens, he said. 

The fact that Hale, 51, spent 29 years with the Montgomery County Sheriff Department (retiring as a major and head of human resources), is the very reason he wants to serve in Yellow Springs. 

“I loved my career with Montgomery County, but as the administrator of a 440-man department, all your time is tied up with administrative dutes,” he said. “My strong points are communicating with people, instructing the troops — leadership comes from the top, and I’ve really liked being back where I see the people I supervise.”

Since stepping in as interim chief six weeks ago, Hale has worked hard to complete a set of policies that he felt were less than adequate to provide consistency between personnel and meet the demands of “today’s litigious world.” Many policies such as internal disciplinary procedures, police pursuit policy, how to handle a missing juvenile and acceptable firearms were either incomplete or nonexistent. 

“The existing policy on what firearms can be carried by law enforcement officers refers to an appendix, but the appendix does not exist,” he gave as an example. “These are the type of problems that exist with current policy.”

Aside from documentation, Hale believes that the YSPD is basically a strong department with friendly officers who fit the role that many villagers said they wanted during last month’s policing forum. His goal, then, is to standardize the expectations and support each officer’s strengths and individual techniques and styles. 

“As long as the officer’s not wrong, I have to support the officer,” he said. 

Recently Hale recommended that the Village maintain its tradition of participation on the Greene County ACE Task Force, the regional drug enforcement agency, whose counterpart he helped organize in Montgomery County. While he gives officers discretion on what kinds of citations to file when they find incidental drug use, for example, he believes it is the Village’s obligation to support the regional effort to curb the large-scale illegal drug trade that has ruined so many lives, he said.  

“Someone’s got to carry that burden,” Hale said. 

Hale attended the University of Dayton and Sinclair Community College but did not earn a degree. He lives in Washington Township with his family and indicated in his application that he sees the chief’s position “not [as] a stepping stone, but a place to spend the next decade.”  

The 13-member search committee includes Village personnel Bates, sergeant Josh Knapp, Melissa VanZant, Brian Housh, Lori Askeland, Dave Foubert, Tom Sexton and Rita Check, Milford Police Chief Sue Madsen, and villagers Aaron Saari, John Gudgel, TJ Turner and Leslie White.


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