Nipper on leave, wife arrested— BCI investigates YSPD officer
- Published: January 14, 2016
Last week Village leaders announced that the most senior member of the Yellow Springs police department was placed on administrative leave two weeks ago due to an ongoing investigation into a charge of misconduct. And in a related incident, his wife was charged with disorderly conduct.
On Tuesday evening, Dec. 29, Village Manager Patti Bates issued the following written statement:
“Patrolman Dennis Nipper was placed on administrative leave on December 22 pending the completion of an investigation. At this time, the Village cannot comment or discuss any matters pertaining to the investigation. The same evening, the patrolman’s wife was arrested, based upon probable cause, on a charge of Disorderly Conduct. That matter has been referred to the Xenia Municipal Court.”
Dayton’s Channel 7 News ran the story at that evening’s broadcast, prompting the Village to release the statement.
Nipper, 65, retired from fulltime work at the police department in 2010 after 38 years on the job, 15 as sergeant. Since then, he had been working part time for the department until Tuesday, Dec. 22, when he reported for his shift at 5 p.m. and was told to turn in his gun and badge and return home due to an investigation into a charge of misconduct, according to Jane Nipper, Nipper’s wife. He was not told the reason for the investigation.
Nipper declined to comment.
Seeking the reason for the investigation, Jane Nipper went to the police department about 10 minutes after her husband was told to go home, according to the police report of the incident. Chief Dave Hale said he could not give more information, the report stated, and Jane Nipper became increasingly agitated. Told by Hale that if she didn’t calm down she’d be arrested, Nipper responded with an expletive. Hale was joined by Sergeant Josh Knapp, who also advised Nipper that she’d be arrested if she didn’t calm down, and Nipper repeated the expletive. At that point Nipper was cited for disorderly conduct and told she was barred from the YSPD property for a week. Her case was referred to Xenia Municipal Court, with a court date of Dec. 30.
However, at the Dec. 30 court date Nipper was advised by the judge to get an attorney, and the case was rescheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 6.
In recent interviews, Chief Hale said he could not comment on the reason for the investigation into Dennis Nipper, which is being conducted by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), an arm of the office of the Ohio attorney general. A complaint regarding possible misconduct was filed against Dennis Nipper, Hale said, and he asked the BCI to conduct the investigation due to potential conflict of interest should the department investigate itself.
Hale also stated this week that he could not comment on the charges against Jane Nipper, since he was witness to the event and the case was ongoing at the time of the interview. Sgt. Knapp also stated he could not comment on an ongoing case.
In an interview on Monday, Jan. 4, Jane Nipper said she is looking forward to having the case heard and resolved.
“It’s an expense and an aggravation that I don’t feel was necessary,” Nipper said, stating she is willing to take responsibility for her behavior and believes the local department should also acknowledge misconduct. “The situation could have been handled differently. It got out of hand.”
What the BCI does
In an interview this week, BCI Spokesman Dan Tierney said, “The Yellow Springs Police Department asked the BCI to conduct the investigation into possible misconduct” on the part of Dennis Nipper. Tierney said he could not state the specific reason for the investigation. While the BCI is most often called in to help police departments investigate crime scenes, the group is less frequently asked to take on an entire investigation, such as the Yellow Springs case, he said.
“It’s likely the case that the department wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest” by having an outside agency conduct the investigation, he said.
It’s not unusual that the person being investigated is not initially told the charge, Tierney said, so that the person doesn’t have the opportunity to influence how the investigation is being conducted.
However, he said, being investigated by the BCI does not imply guilt. Rather, the unit is determining if the complaint against Nipper is legitimate.
“There have been cases where the accusation is unfounded,” he said.
While Tierney said he could not speculate on the length of the investigation, the group frequently works on a case for “weeks or months” he said, depending on the complexity of the situation. The BCI will conduct the investigation, write up a report and send the report to the Greene County prosecutor, who will decide whether to move ahead with the charges.
The BCI is funded by the office of the attorney general, he said, which is financed by state taxes. In recent years, the BCI locally conducted an investigation into the 2012 SWAT team standoff and death of villager Paul Schenck.
Charges against Jane Nipper
In an interview last week, Jane Nipper said she went to the Yellow Springs police department at about 5:20 p.m. on Dec. 22 shortly after her husband returned home, having been told an investigation was being conducted but not the reason.
“I felt they had mistreated Dennis and went to talk to the chief,” she said. “After 43 years in the department, don’t you think he deserves better?”
Nipper said she had “good intentions” in wanting to talk with the chief, who she considered a friend.
According to the police report by Sgt. Knapp of the incident, Jane Nipper encountered the chief in the Bryan Center parking lot, where he was getting into his truck to leave work for the day.
“I responded out to the parking lot due to the fact that I observed Jane apparently upset and yelling at Chief Hale by her wildly waving arms and demeanor,” the report stated, going on to say that Sgt. Knapp heard Hale explain to Nipper that he couldn’t give more information on the investigation. In response, Nipper was arguing, the report stated, and the chief advised her to return home. At that point, Nipper responded, “[Expletive] you!” to the chief, who left his vehicle and advised Nipper she’d be arrested if she didn’t leave immediately.
Knapp then intervened, according to the report, at which point Nipper put her hand near his face and he pushed it away, also stating that if she didn’t stop being disorderly, she’d be arrested. In response, Nipper repeated the expletive to Knapp, who then arrested her for disorderly conduct. She was handcuffed and led into the department’s interrogation room.
When Jane Nipper mentioned that now she’d have to go to Mayor’s Court, Knapp responded that he wasn’t sending her case to Mayor’s Court but rather to the Xenia Municipal Court because the mayor was her friend, according to Nipper.
“I don’t think that was right,” Nipper said in an interview this week. “That’s saying the mayor can’t be impartial.”
Knapp said this week that he couldn’t comment on Nipper’s assertion regarding why he sent the case to the Xenia court.
While he couldn’t comment on the specific case, Knapp said it’s appropriate that he sent the case to the Xenia court because Nipper was charged with the higher of two levels of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor M4, due to her having been told she’d be arrested if she didn’t calm down, and not doing so.
All jailable offenses are sent to the Xenia court, and the higher level of disorderly conduct charge is a jailable offense, he said.
“If you order a person to cease and desist and they don’t do so, it’s jailable,” he said.
Mayor David Foubert, who presides over Mayor’s Court, also stated he could not comment on a specific case. However, disorderly conduct cases are often heard in Mayor’s Court, and he believes that all misdemeanors cited under the Village code should go to Mayor’s Court. The local court is intended as a less formal and more comfortable court where justice is dispensed by a fellow community member rather than by strangers, he said. And he disagreed strongly that he shouldn’t preside over the case of a person who’s a friend.
“In the 25 years I’ve been in office I’ve had my boss’ wife in front of me in court, and have had to take away the drivers’ licenses of people I’m good friends with,” he said. “I was voted into office because people felt I could differentiate between friendship and the facts of a case.”
Foubert expressed concern at the declining use of Mayor’s Court by local police in recent years.
According to Chief Hale, in situations in which cases could be heard by either the local or the Xenia court, he allows his officers the discretion to choose which court. He keeps an eye on the officers’ choices, he said, to make sure those decisions are reasonable.
“Until I see a pattern of abuse I’ll give the officers that discretion,” he said.
At last week’s Xenia Municipal Court hearing, the judge advised Jane Nipper that she should get a lawyer and continued the case until this week, on Jan. 6. Procuring the lawyer is an added expense, but Nipper said she’s eager to get the situation behind her.
“I just want it to be over with,” she said.