December 11, 2003


For new chief, police work is about serving the community

Carl Bush, who started his job as the new Yellow Springs police chief last week, said that he is impressed with the Police Department and the community. He said that for many, Yellow Springs is more of a home than just a place to live.

Carl Bush, the new Yellow Springs police chief, says that policing isn’t just answering calls. It’s being proactive, he says, it’s getting involved. “It’s dealing with kids, dealing with perceptions of the community, dealing with social aspects of the community,” he said.

That means having more of a presence on the streets, in the schools, in neighborhoods. It means doing little things, like working with the Mills Lawn School safety patrol and offering to make sure car seats are properly secured. It means focusing on “crime prevention.” It means attending community meetings and understanding what the community wants out of its police force.

“ We’re here to serve the community so we have to know what they want and what are the issues,” Bush said in an interview in his office last Friday, adding that this includes understanding what the community’s “needs, wants and desires” are for the Police Department.

Bush, who started his new job last Monday, said that he plans to spend time getting to understand Yellow Springs and the Police Department. He said that he wants to get out into the community, meet business people, citizens, the staff at the Yellow Springs schools and Antioch. He may organize community meetings or set a time when people can come into the department and talk to him.

Indeed, Bush said that he will know if he is successful here “if the department is able to provide a good service, efficient, effective police service to the community.”

In October the Village selected Bush, who is 45 and has worked in law enforcement for 26 years, as the new Yellow Springs police chief, replacing Jim Miller. Bush was selected from an initial pool of 81 applicants during a search process that lasted more than half a year.

When he applied for the job opening, Bush said, he thought Yellow Springs would be an interesting place to work. A small community offers different opportunities from what a larger department can, he said. “You can do more, you can get out and do hands-on with the community,” Bush said last week.

He said that he was attracted to the community of Yellow Springs and that as he went through the Village’s interview process he “really got the feeling that this could be home.”

Bush hopes to make Yellow Springs home. He is hoping to purchase a house in the village, though he has said that will depend on what’s available. Under his contract with the Village, the new chief, who currently lives in Clayton, is required to live within a 10-minute drive of Yellow Springs.

A long law enforcement career

Bush said that he got into law enforcement because he thought it would make a good career, and that the job would be interesting and would offer a way to be helpful and useful.

After more than 25 years, he said, the job has lived up to his initial expectations. “You have good times and bad, but over the years I’ve felt I’ve made an impact and helped people,” he said.

Bush’s career in law enforcement started when at 19 he got a job dispatching for the Trotwood Police Department. He also worked for more than a year as a ranger for what is now the Five Rivers MetroParks in Dayton. In 1981 he was hired as a full-time patrol officer with Trotwood, where he worked until he came to Yellow Springs.

During his tenure at Trotwood, he had myriad responsibilities. He spent 17 years as a patrol officer and patrol sergeant. As a detective sergeant, he was responsible for investigating internal affairs and serious crimes, such as felonies, drug arrests, homicides.

Since 2000 he was in charge of accreditation, records management and investigating serious internal complaints in Trotwood. During the accreditation process, Bush rewrote all of the department’s policies and procedures, everything, he said, from “how we did our job and reported it to records retention.”

In May 2003 the Trotwood department was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (Calea), meaning that the department had met international standards for policing. Bush said that receiving the accreditation was a “very big accomplishment,” in part, because a small number of departments have received Calea accreditation.

Bush also has teaching experience, serving as an instructor at the Miami Valley Career Technology Center in Clayton for the last four years and at Sinclair Community College from 2000 to 2002.

He is currently working on a B.S. in criminal justice administration from Park University in Parkville, Mo., which has a satellite campus at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where Bush goes to class. He has also completed law enforcement courses from Sinclair, Northwestern University, Law Enforcement Foundation in Columbus and the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London, Ohio.

Though he has reached the level of police chief, Bush said he intends to continue with his studies and earn his bachelor’s degree. “I’m a big believer in education, that education is life long,” he said. “It’s a personal goal,” he said of the degree, “and I’m going to accomplish that personal goal.”

Bush was raised in the Trotwood area. He is divorced and has a 19-year-old daughter, who is attending Sinclair Community College, a 6-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son. He said that he spends all of his free time with his children.

The new chief’s plans

Sitting behind his desk in Bryan Community Center, Bush said, “There’s a lot to do here,” as he went over a mental list of his goals and priorities.

The first he mentioned is to rewrite the Police Department’s policy and procedures manual, which, he said, sets guidelines for how department personnel do their jobs. The manual “covers the gambit” of department activities, from procedures on use of force and high-speed chases to fiscal management, he said.

It also lets department personnel understand what is expected of them. “You can’t have 15 employees doing their jobs 15 different ways,” Bush said.

Bush also plans to implement a bias-based training program, which, he said, addresses how officers approach encounters with and communicate with people of different races, cultures, gender and sexual orientation. The training stresses that officers must approach everyone they come in contact with in the same manner, Bush said.

When he selected Bush as police chief, Village Manager Rob Hillard singled out Bush’s experience working with a diverse workforce in a diverse community. Last week, Bush said that bias-based policing, which he described as a broader form of racial profiling, is “illegal, period.”

“ I will not tolerate bias-based policing in this community,” he said.

Another priority for Bush is improving the department’s equipment. The force plans to purchase a new police car by the end of the year and a second one in 2004. The department has also budgeted three cameras for the police cruisers for next year. In addition, Bush said, the department needs to address a few basic needs, including replacing the light bars on top of the cruisers, which, he said, are old.

Bush is also taking over for a department that has had what could be considered a tumultuous year. Two officers have left the force this year — one, Matt Williams, was fired and has appealed his termination in the courts, claiming the Village violated his right to due process; the other, Josh Cernetic, resigned after he was accused of using too much force against a Yellow Springs teenager.

Bush’s predecessor, Jim Miller, was placed on leave in March and retired six months later. In the interim, Captain John Grote served as police chief. In the spring, Miller said that he decided to retire because of a difference of opinion between him and Village Manager Rob Hillard about the management of the police force.

Bush admitted that “it’s a challenge” to take over after these controversies, noting that “if anything was wrong in the past,” he must ensure “it doesn’t happen in the future.” He added that he has not had a chance to review the issues with the two officers.

But Bush emphasized that the Police Department has “continued to provide service to the community and from what I’ve heard they’ve done it well.”

A long first week

Bush said that he spent his first week meeting Village employees, getting acclimated with the department and reviewing the force’s budgets for 2003 and 2004. He attended a Village Council meeting last Monday and part of a Village budget workshop two nights later. He said that he gave department personnel “what they called a writing assignment,” asking them to describe their needs and desires as a way to better understand the staff.

Through Thursday, he said, he had already worked over 50 hours. While Bush knows he won’t be able to put in a typical 40-hour workweek, he considers last week’s schedule unusual. He did, however, add, “I’m going to do what I have to do to get the job done.”

Although his first week was hectic, the new chief said that he was still enjoying himself. “I’m looking forwarded to an extended stay,” he said.

— Robert Mihalek