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Yellow Springs Police Chief Resigns After New Year's Eve Altercation

Jerry Kenney

Yellow Springs Police Chief Dave Hale is resigning his post after New Year’s Eve events took an ugly turn in the village Saturday night. Hale's resignation was announced at a standing room-only meeting Tuesday at the John Bryan Community Center in Yellow Springs.

Village council officials are continuing to investigate what led to the altercation between police and revelers in downtown Yellow Springs, which ended with at least one person arrested and several people injured. 

Details are still emerging about what exactly happened on New Year's Eve, but there was widespread agreement among those at the meeting that police acted with apparent disregard for residents.

Yellow Springs Village Manager Patti Bates apologized to the gathered crowd, saying police interactions with party-goers were unacceptable. She says the incident, “damaged,” police-community relations in the village.

“I have reviewed the in-car camera footage and the reports from the officers, and upon initial evaluation I cannot determine any circumstances that would justify the officers on scene at the New Year’s Eve celebration shutting down the event early,” she says.

Chief Hale was not at Tuesday’s meeting. The audience applauded as Bates read Hale’s letter of resignation. 

“I have determined that the New Year’s Eve event has so outraged numerous citizens of Yellow Springs, many of whom I know to be level headed and supporters of the police, that I believe the best way to heal the rift is to resign my position immediately,” the letter read.

According to video from the scene at least two police cruisers drove through a large gathering outside the Yellow Springs Theatre just after the annual Ball Drop ceremony. Witnesses testified the cruisers had flashing lights and sirens blaring in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

Police say one man was arrested after he allegedly refused to follow officers' orders and then fled.

More than 300 residents attended Tuesday's meeting.

Some questioned how -- and why -- other police officers from nearby districts, including Greene County, arrived in Yellow Springs so quickly. They also asked who gave the order for officers to break up the traditional end-of-year celebrations at just a few minutes after midnight.

Yellow Springs resident Brett McEachern testified that police overreach in the village isn’t limited to recent events.

“That’s just my own experience and yet you don’t have to ask too many people, especially young people, who get harassed here frequently, and people of color as well. This is a pattern," he says. "This happens.”

Hale’s departure is the latest in a string of troubles for the Yellow Springs Police. Many community members have complained of what they say is a history of unfair police tactics.

Several residents who spoke at the meeting praised Hale for stepping up and taking responsibility by resigning. 

Hale has led the department since 2014. He first served as interim chief of police. At the time of his appointment, several village residents questioned whether Hale was a good fit for the office of Yellow Springs police chief.

After listening to nearly three hours of audience testimony, council member Karen Wintrow promised to address residents’ concerns as swiftly as possible.

“This council and our staff is committed to regaining the trust of our community in us, and in our ability to effectively and transparently to work through this process, to put together a police department that they can feel proud of and that reflects our values.”

Wintrow says a full investigation into the New Year’s Eve incident is ongoing. The village council is expected to hold another public meeting on January 30, 2017.