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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Police Chief Reilly acclimates to Grinnell

By Joe Wlos

At St. Bonaventure University in Olean, New York, Dennis Reilly studied accounting and business management, but he was always more interested in law enforcement. Reilly’s father, his hero, was a police officer, and Reilly decided to follow in his footsteps.

“While some seniors in high school were out at parties getting rip-roared and wasted, I was riding around with my dad on a midnight shift,” Reilly said.

Now, Reilly is applying all of his experience in law enforcement and management as Grinnell’s new Police Chief.  He spent two decades in the Morris Township police force in New Jersey, and this July, he moved with his wife Dodi Reilly to Grinnell to begin his job commanding local law enforcement. Although he has only been here for a few months, he says that Iowa already feels like home.

“Grinnell reminds me a lot of Olean,” Chief Reilly said. “I actually did an internship with the police department there during the second semester of my senior year, which I really enjoyed. Based on my college life and my upbringing in New Jersey, I get the small-town college experience.”

While Reilly has handled many administrative tasks—budgeting, technology upgrades—he has also become very involved with the Grinnell community, meeting with members of the College’s administration and joining the local Chamber of Commerce. Recently, he visited the Student Government Association’s Joint Board to introduce himself to senators and cabinet, as well as answer a few questions about the police force.

“You just don’t know what the day is going to bring,” Chief Reilly said. “Some days, I’m in here before the sun rises, and I leave after the sun sets. Other days, I’m coming in around 8:30 a.m. and leaving around 5:30 p.m.”

He lives on Reed Street, just two minutes away from the Grinnell Public Safety Building, in a ranch-style house. Chief Reilly and Mrs. Reilly are empty nesters—their two daughters are both in college—but they have plenty of friends and family in the area. Mrs. Reilly grew up in Ames, and she attended the University of Northern Iowa.

“She’s been spending a lot of time visiting family and friends,” Chief Reilly said.

The couple are avid sports fans, and they have enjoyed attending games at the local high school and the College. Although his favorite sport is baseball, Chief Reilly attended every home Pioneer football game this year, and he is looking forward to golfing and biking in the spring.  There is one special event that combines two of his passions—biking and law enforcement.

“I do a bike ride in May for the Police Unity Tour. That’s a 300-mile ride from Northern New Jersey to Washington D.C.” Chief Reilly said. “It’s to raise money for the Law Enforcement Memorial and raise awareness for officers killed in the line of duty.”

Photo by Joe Wlos

He has been involved in the Police Unity Tour for eight years, and he is excited to continue his involvement.

“I am a big supporter of law enforcement,” Chief Reilly said. “I’m definitely very attuned to officer safety issues and line of duty deaths. Grinnell has experienced two officers killed in the line of duty.”

Reilly has been very aware of this local issue. He recently had lunch with the widow of Officer Ralph Ogan, who died in 1963. Grinnell’s other fallen officer, Warren H. Binegar, died in 1948. Reilly could recount both of their stories.

Reilly’s respect for the police force is contagious, and he wants to share it with the students of Grinnell. In the spring, Reilly would like to invite students to participate in a police-training program to teach them about an officer’s point-of-view.

“I want to do it. I think that it is important that we do it,” Chief Reilly said. “I’ve spoken to a number of members of the public who have taken the class, and it really has opened up their eyes to what we do and why we do it.”

Reilly hopes that the program will begin in March. He plans on visiting campus to talk up the program sometime early next semester.

“This is my home now,” Reilly said. “I definitely miss my family and friends out east, but there’s a reason for everything. I’m not sure what the reason is that I’m here yet, but it’s good. It’s very good.”

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