Questions still unanswered about Dayton police chief’s missing gun

Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl speaks at a police promotion ceremony. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF FILE
Caption
Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl speaks at a police promotion ceremony. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF FILE

Manager: City leaders ‘immediately’ aware of incident.

Questions remain unanswered about the theft of Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl’s department-issued gun, as the city manager on Tuesday said the matter remains under criminal and administrative investigation.

The incident — which stripped Biehl of his service gun and other undisclosed personal and city-issued property — appears to have been reported the morning of July 28, according to a police report, but it is unclear if Biehl was the person who reported it.

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In a prepared statement, City Manager Shelly Dickstein said, “City leadership was made aware of the theft immediately following the incident.”

“In addition to the criminal investigation, an administrative/internal investigation is also being conducted,” Dickstein said, reiterating what the police department already disclosed Monday. “This is the standard procedure when city property is damaged and/or stolen.”

“Since the investigation began, city leadership has been kept apprised and briefed regularly,” she said. “As with any ongoing investigation, the city and/or police department will not make comments prior to the conclusion of both investigations.”

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The statement made no indication of discipline or support for Biehl, who declined through a spokeswoman to comment for this story.

Biehl’s name was not on the initial incident report, police spokeswoman Cara Zinski-Neace said, “because the City of Dayton is the owner of the property.”

Records released so far do not clarify where the theft occurred and whether the theft was from Biehl’s vehicle, house, person or office. Zinski-Neace said the report lists the address of the East Patrol Operations Division’s Wayne Avenue substation “in lieu of using an off-duty law enforcement officer’s address which, for safety purposes, is not subject to public release.”

The police department’s initial statement indicates the theft occurred “during a recent series of thefts in a Dayton neighborhood.”

MORE: Crime falling in Dayton: ‘We’re a safer city,’ police chief says

City officials have not said if the neighborhood referenced is Biehl’s own, but police records show four thefts from motor vehicles in Biehl’s northeast Dayton neighborhood for the week preceding the incident.

“There is currently no Dayton Police Department policy governing ‘keeping service weapons in city vehicles,’” Zinski-Neace said.

Biehl’s incident is not the first involving a Dayton police officer and the safekeeping of his firearm.

In November 2004, a Dayton Police officer left a Huber Heights Fricker’s restaurant at 12:30 a.m. and found his truck had been broken into, according to newspaper coverage at the time. A submachine gun, two rifles and a shotgun were taken from the SWAT officer and were eventually recovered. He did not face discipline — a lieutenant at the time called him “a crime victim” — but said he would buy a car with a trunk to better secure his gear.

In 2013, Wright State University’s then-police chief, Michael Martinsen, disciplined himself to four hours of firearm safety training after he left his service weapon in a restroom.

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Confronting gun violence has been central to Biehl’s career in Dayton and previously during his nearly 25 years in the Cincinnati Police Department.

In 2006, Biehl implemented a neighborhood gun violence reduction initiative called CeaseFire Cincinnati, according to his biography. Biehl joined Dayton police in January 2008 and has partnered with other agencies to introduce the Community Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence.

In March, Biehl announced a reorganization of the Dayton Police Department to create a Violent Crimes Bureau with a special unit that focuses on “group offenders” who drive gun violence as well as robbery offenses and all other gun offenses.

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Part 1 violent crimes — which include murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault — have declined by about 6 percent through the end of July, compared to the same period in 2016, according to police data.

There were 535 firearm-related crimes in Dayton in 2016, an increase of nearly 21 percent, according to police data. There were 111 gun-crimes that resulted in injuries, which was a small increase from 2015. Violent crimes not involving guns declined 11 percent in 2016.

In July, the Center for American Progress, a progressive policy research and advocacy organization, published a report analyzing federal data showing the frequency of gun theft. The report found an estimated 37,271 firearms were stolen in Ohio between 2012 and 2015 — an estimated $16.7 million worth of missing firearms.

MORE: The police chief’s problem isn’t unique in Ohio. How big is the stolen gun issue?

Staff Writers Cornelius Frolik and Melisa Lyons contributed reporting.