The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Embattled Wilkinson quits as police chief


B.J. Wilkinson has resigned as chief of the Sidney Police Department.

"It has been my privilege and my honor to serve the people of Sidney," he said when reached by phone on Thursday morning.

Wilkinson submitted his resignation on Wednesday, which was then accepted by Sidney Interim City Manager Geri Anthony, according to a media release from the City.

His departure is effective immediately.

Wilkinson has been on paid administrative leave since July, after he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing government operations.

The charge related to pulling a citation that had been issued to Sidney Public Services Director John Hehnke.

After being ordered to serve 30 days in jail, Wilkinson appealed the conviction and sentence. Two weeks ago, a district court judge upheld the ruling. On Wednesday, Wilkinson said he would now file an appeal in the Nebraska Court of Appeals.

Assistant Police Chief Joe Aikens has headed the department since Wilkinson was placed on leave and will continue in that role until a new chief is hired, Anthony said.

The department has 14 sworn officers and two civilian employees.

Wilkinson said he is looking forward to new beginnings.

"Hopefully, those will be here, but there are many options available," he said. "We will look for those new opportunities and new beginnings and hopefully be able to stay here and contribute to the community in other meaningful ways."

The decision to step down allows for some closure, he said.

"I'm actually able now to focus on winning my appeal in the Nebraska Court of Appeals," he said. "And I'm able to have some personal closure."

While the city manager is responsible for hiring a new police chief, the city's civil service commission will oversee the process.

Sidney Mayor Mark Nienhueser said the commission is responsible for administering testing to candidates to ensure they meet the qualifications to serve as a police officer.

"Who to hire comes down to the city manager," he explained. "In the past, the city manager set up a selection committee that helped interview the short list of candidates – but the short list of candidates was developed by the city manager and the human resources director."

Anthony said the commission has been notified, but no timeline has been established.

"There's a process by state law we have to go by," she said. "We have to go through all the steps, just like with any other police officer."

The city is also beginning the search for a permanent city manager, which could delay the hiring of a new chief, the mayor said.

Longtime City Manager Gary Person resigned his position in August, in part citing the controversy involving the police chief and the incident with Hehnke. A day before resigning, he fired Hehnke.

B.J. Wilkinson

"We need to determine whether to wait until we have the new city manager on hand or should we go ahead and fill it now," the mayor said. "That decision needs to be made in the coming week or so – but again, that is [Anthony's] decision to make."

Nienhueser said Wilkinson's resignation "wasn't a total surprise."

"It's the right thing for the city," he said. "It should bring conclusion to these matters, and we can now move forward as a city."

Wilkinson served as police chief for more than two years, taking over the department in July 2013.

Before coming to Sidney, he was the police chief in Litchfield, Ill., for 10 years.

Wilkinson said despite tendering his resignation, he remains loyal to law enforcement.

"I'm still very loyal to the profession and the Sidney Police Department," he said.


Reader Comments

guest01 writes:

Timetochat seems to have a hard time understanding how our system of laws works. He certainly understands how cronyism and the good old boy networks work. If we were a nation of men instead of laws, he'd feel right at hom with justice being a moving target.

Timetochat writes:

And by we, I suppose you are speaking for all law enforcement members nation wide? I assume that being a former officer of the law, you too used discretion when on the job and made judgment calls that could have fallen either way. If my assumptions are wrong, then I do apologize, but I do find it interesting that you have taken it upon yourself to speak on behalf of the people and the past and present law enforcement in not needing his support. His career was something special, plain and simple

Abouttime writes:

Well timetochat, I have looked into his acts, as I encourage everyone to do by going to the court and obtaining a copy, and have seen the truth of his more than single action as you said. As a retired cop myself, I can say collectively that we don't want his support. Villainy wears many masks, but none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.

Mimi writes:

Once he was declared guilty, that should have been it. He should have been terminated immediately. The fact that he was not only confirms the good old boy system tbat everyone knows exists in Sidney. The trust has been broken. There was no way BJ was going to be effective as chief had he remained. The Council and City Manager should have known that. We need to clean house at City Hall and start over again. The lack of integrity is ridiculous. And embarrassing.

Timetochat writes:

Before you proceed to make a fool of yourself abouttime might you first look into the career of a man who has dedicated his life to law enforcement and the many great things he has done for three different agencies in his career. No man is perfect, nor is one mans successes and failures based off of a single act. Before you are quick to judge, why don't you step back and look at the 20+ years where he was more than just some cop and allow your ignorance to humble you.

Abouttime writes:

Loyal to law enforcement?!?! He is the epitope of what gives cops everywhere a bad name!!! It will be difficult to be loyal when the state revokes his peace officer certification.


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