Embattled police chief placed on leave named in honor with Middletown department

Chief David Birk has been on paid administrative leave since Dec. 20.

The Middletown Division of Police, including its chief who has been on paid leave for six weeks, is being honored as the February Agency of the Month by a state agency.

At about noon, the department posted via social media the honor from the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, congratulating “Chief David Birk and the Middletown Police Department for being named the February 2024 Agency of the Month for the Sharing Ohio’s Best Program. Middletown Police has provided their community with numerous programs to participate alongside law enforcement and become more familiar with policing. The Community Relations and Engagement selection is based on Middletown’s ability to encourage community engagement and participation at all levels of their city. Congratulations MPD!”

The intro says: “Our employees work hard on events such as National Night Out, Mike Davis Christmas with a Cop, 25 Days of MPD Christmas (ornaments), Casting with a Cop, Candy with a Cop, Jeep-N-Eats, Lacrosse/Pickleball Camp, Youth Police Academy and our extensive outreach with the Quick Response Team for homelessness and addiction. Congratulations to all of our employees, well deserved.”

We have been chosen as the Sharing Ohio's Best, February 2024 Agency of the Month by the Ohio Association of Chiefs of...

Posted by Middletown Division of Police on Thursday, February 1, 2024

Birk said he couldn’t agree more about that the staff’s hard work and offered his congratulations.

“I am thankful for the community effort and support of the department,” Birk said, but he made it clear he has not returned to work. “We have implemented activities, outreach to the homeless and community events. Our outreach programs are the biggest thing we have worked on over the years.”

In a press release, City Manager Paul Lolli said, “It’s no secret to the Middletown community that the Middletown Division of Police is among the best in the state. The department’s mission towards community policing and making an impact on people of all ages is at the heart of what Middletown is about — building each other up to make the city a better place to live, work and play.”

On Dec. 20, Birk was placed on paid administrative leave and left the city building after turning over his gun and badge.

A letter presented to Birk on Dec. 20 in Lolli’s office says Birk is to remain on leave “pending further review of matters relating to your employment.”

Deputy Chief Eric Crank is acting police chief.

Six weeks later, no information has been released from the city about who is conducting the investigation, when it will be completed and if it involves any alleged criminal wrongdoing.

Lolli stated at the end of the December letter to Birk: “Please note that this administrative leave is not a disciplinary action or adverse employment action.”

Stephen Imm, Birk’s attorney told the Journal-News on Jan. 8, “I don’t believe that the chief has done anything to merit any disciplinary action.”

Imm said he is unaware of any criminal allegations against Birk. He added as far as he knows the investigation into the issue is being conducted internally, but he is unsure by whom.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Lolli said “no comment” late last month when asked to shed light on the investigation.

“It is being handled internally through the administrative route,” Lolli said. “He was placed on administrative leave, and the matter is still being looked into. Period.”

He declined to name the person investigating or if any of the allegations are criminal and are perhaps being investigated by a police agency.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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