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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Dennis Reilly to bring experience as new chief of police

After the departure of Police Chief Jody Matherly in January, Grinnell began its search for a new top cop.  The city chose Dennis Reilly, currently Chief of Police for Morris Township in New Jersey, to take over the department.  A graduate of St. Bonaventure University in New York, a small school in “a very similar situation, with a similar makeup to Grinnell,” Reilly is excited to begin working with the residents and students of Grinnell.  The S&B reporter Joe Wlos ’15 conducted a phone interview with Reilly to ask about his past experience and future plans.

What is your past police experience in New Jersey?
I have been with the Morris Township Police Department for 25 years.  I have served as a patrol officer, a sergeant, a detective lieutenant, a captain and now chief.  I have either worked or supervised every facet of the Morris Township Police Department.

Which job did you find most exciting?  What did you enjoy the most?
I enjoyed being on patrol.  I enjoyed that a lot because it gave me the opportunity to be out there with the public, really being able to play a role in the community.  But I have also kind of liked being a detective.  We had a lot of interesting cases, and there was also something new.  That’s especially true here in New Jersey.  There’s always something going on, so there was never a dull moment.

What kind of place is Morris?
It’s suburban.  It’s about twenty miles west of Newark and thirty miles west of New York City.

So coming to Grinnell feels like a big change for you.
I’ll tell you what, in terms of the whole rural area and Poweshiek County, yes, but in terms of the community itself, no.  I live in Morris Plains, which is adjacent to Morris Township, where I work.  Morris Plains is actually a smaller place than Grinnell. … They call it the community of caring.  It’s very close-knit, and I’ve lived here all my life.  I would describe the area that I live now to be something similar to the suburbs of Des Moines.

Why did you decide to apply for this job in Grinnell?
I saw the job posting, and I actually have a friend from the National FBI Academy in 2010 [in Iowa].  I became very close to an officer from a suburb of Des Moines, and we have kept in pretty close contact since our graduation from the academy.  When I saw the posting, I spoke to him about it, and he felt like it was a great community and something that I should look into in.  So I did—I applied.  In February, myself, my wife and my daughter Katie were in Iowa for a visit to [the University of Northern Iowa], so while we were out there, I took the time to come to Grinnell.  … I met with former Chief [Jody] Matherly, and I spoke to him extensively.  I even spoke with him before coming in February, to get a handle on police relations with the community.  I have a great friend who, I’ll say a few years ago, when she was looking at colleges, Grinnell was a potential for her, and so I talked to her about Grinnell.  I have another friend who is an athletic director of a state university here in New Jersey, also a DIII school, and she was quite familiar with Grinnell.  So I did a lot of research about the school and the town. … After my interview with [Grinnell’s] city council, I knew that if I wasn’t going to be in Morris Township, I wanted to be in Grinnell.  I just had that feeling.

How do you envision police relations with the College?
I currently see the relations between the police and the College as good.  I talked with Chief Matherly a lot about that.  I look at the College and the students of the College as residents of the city. … Communication is there.  There are always new things that we can do to improve communication, though, and I’m just looking to continue that.

This year, the College has had over twenty alcohol-related hospitalizations, and there have been several arrests on campus that have sparked student concern.  Do you believe that the College should be left to deal with its students’ problems, or do you believe that legal intervention is required when problems arise?
I think it’s the police department’s job to enforce the law, whether it’s a college student or a resident of the town. … I think that alcohol-related issues nation-wide on college campuses are a concern, and there are a number of things we can do to address that. Enforcement is certainly one aspect, but not the only aspect. Working with the College to provide educational programs for the students is something else that we should look at.  But again, I think that the police department is tasked with the responsibility of enforcing the laws of Iowa, and that’s what the police department should be doing.  Take away the identification of it being a college student—everyone in the city limits of Grinnell is a resident of Grinnell.  Every resident should be treated fairly.

What do you most look forward to in Grinnell?
Working with the community.  … I do a lot of volunteer activities.  I look forward to continuing that in Grinnell.  And when I say “the community,” that includes the College. I really look forward to it. … I am a huge sports fan, and I look forward to attending the sporting events at the College.  I look forward to attending the sporting events at the high school.  I look forward to getting involved and becoming a part of the community.

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