McCrabb: Birk’s journey moves from CHiPS to Middletown police chief

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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David Birk named new Police Chief in Middletown

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

If not for CHiPS, Middletown’s newest police chief might be a chiropractor.

Growing up in Wisconsin, David Birk laid in front of the TV and watched episode after episode of CHiPS, a crime drama series that followed the lives of two motorcycle officers on the California Highway Patrol.

Birk dreamed of one day being a real-life Jon Baker, played by blonde-haired, blue-eyed Larry Wilcox, whom he “idolized” as a kid.

“That’s where it all started,” said Birk, 47, whose promotion to chief was announced on Monday. “I couldn’t get enough.”

After his father, who worked for Appleton Paper in Wisconsin, was transferred to the Dayton region in 1981, the family followed. Birk graduated from West Carrollton High School in 1990 and started working in banquet facilities at Alex’s Continental when he was 15.

He attended Wright State University and planned to become a chiropractor.

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Then he switched gears because that childhood dream continued to fuel his “passion for law enforcement.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and urban affairs from WSU, graduated from the Criminal Justice Training Academy at Sinclair Community College and graduated with honors from the Southern Police Institute at the University of Louisville.

And now he’s Middletown’s top cop.

He was hired as a patrol officer in 1997 by Bill Becker, who was then Middletown’s police chief. Becker, who retired as chief in 2005, has watched Birk move up the ranks as a field training officer, special operations detective, sergeant, lieutenant and most recently as major and deputy chief.

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Birk’s appointment is expected to be confirmed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Becker said Birk’s 22-year tenure on the Middletown police proved “we made the right decision then and they made the right choice as the top dog. For me, it’s a good feeling, it really is.”

Rodney Muterspaw, who retired as police chief this year, wrote on his Facebook page that Birk was a “good pick for the city. Good move on their part. He will do a great job and gets out in the community as a chief should. He earned this.”

On Tuesday, Birk, wearing his dress uniform and a chief’s badge, addressed the media for the first time as chief. Challenges he faces include staffing and budgeting, which are echoed by every chief.

He also wants to complete his command staff by promoting one of the five sergeants — Eric Crank, Cris Kelly, Earl Nelson, Steve Ream and Malcom Tipton — to major.

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Like Muterspaw, Birk believes in the importance of community relations. He plans to continue National Night Out, Casting with a Cop, Coffee with a Cop and Shop with a Cop.

“Community involvement is huge,” Birk said.

He said the department is bringing back its Community Oriented Policing Unit that will put additional police officers into neighborhoods to address, among other issues, the drug epidemic and homelessness in downtown.

Last week, before his promotion was made public, Birk talked to Middletown City Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. about ways to reduce youth gang activity in the city. Birk hopes adding summer programs and teen mentors are a start, but “not an answer for everything.”

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For Middletown to be successful, the police department, city government and schools must work together.

“This is a partnership,” he said. “We have to have the same vision and goals. Our goals are the same. We want to reduce crime. The city wants to reduce crime.”

But first things first.

The Birks — his wife and high school sweetheart, Kila, and their children, Nathan, 24; Maegan, 18 and a freshman at WSU; and Paityn, 15 and a Springboro High School sophomore — are heading on vacation to Disney/Universal Studios in Florida, a trip planned months ago.

Too bad he’s not vacationing at Disneyland in California. He could run into Officer Jon Baker.

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