Within two weeks, half of town police officers resign, citing a 'toxic' environment with the village board

BIG BEND, WI - Over the last two weeks, a total of six police officers with the Big Bend Police Department (BBPD) have resigned. 

According to FOX 6 Now, the Big Bend Village Board heard from a handful of those officers during a meeting on January 4th. Five of those who left the department did so on the same day, which leaves the department at nearly half of what it was. 

The Daily Mail reported that during the meeting, the officers said that they were "fed-up with a toxic work environment" that they sat was created by the village board. This is the board that decided to disband the police department back in September 2023, but thanks to pressure from local residents, that decision was reversed in December 2023.

The village board said that the dissolvement of the department was a "cost-saving" measure, but with the reversal have funded the department through all of 2024. On Thursday, January 4th, those who are still with the department received a raise. The officers who have resigned said that the village deserves better than what the board provides. 

At the meeting, Joe Honzelka, one of the officers who resigned, said, "Congratulations on what you've done for this village to make us famous in the worst possible way." He said that the board's September 2023 decision to close the police department caused concern on the inside. 

He added, "I gave a lot to this community and it certainly wasn't for pay. I could go to Menard's and make more money. They voted the police department out. Then they got caught with not being able to do it the way they wanted to do it, and so now they're scrambling to try and keep a police department."

The officer said that the concerns they had only amplified following the untimely death of Chief Don Gaglione, who died by suicide in October 2023. According to the department's press release, Chief Gaglione had been with the village as police chief since January of 2014. Prior to his time with BBPD, he served 32 years with the Milwaukee Police Department.

In a video clip of the village's attempt to cut costs for 2024, Officer James Soneberg said, "I am tired of the harassment of this village board and all the (expletive) I've been dealing with throughout the years." Soneberg is one of the six officers who have resigned. 

In a Facebook post, the BBPD wrote, "We regrettably announce the resignation of the following officers: Sergeant Aide - years, Officer Schweitzer - 5 years, Officer Hennlick - 10 years, Officer Honzelka - 1.5 years, and Officer Soneberg - 3 years. All of the officers came from or currently work at other agencies. When including Chief Gaglione, these officers represent more than 125 years of total law enforcement experience. We wish them the best and sincerely thank them for their service to the Village of Big Bend and its residents over the past several years."

After the flood of resignations, the department now only has one full time officer and six part time officers on staff. Mark Anderson, chairman of the Fire and Police Commission board, also quit. He explained that the Village president also planned to dissolve the Fire and Police Commission, which is separate from the BBPD. He said, "I resigned because of the village board." 

Anderson's old department helped oversee emergency responses in the small town of about 1,483 people. He said he "feels bad for the residents of Big Bend," as now they have to rely on nearby police forces. He said, "There is a clear division here in the village."

Village board president Jeff Goodman, the individual reportedly responsible for wanting to dismantle the police department and get rid of the commission board, says that community member should not be concerned about policing in the village. He said, "There won't be a problem," adding, "I don't even know why they're talking about it."

He said, "We have an excellent person that has taken charge of the department. Citizens should not fear there is not going to be police protection. They will be safe." In a Facebook post on December 30, 2023, officials wrote, "Please be assured that when you call 911, a police officer will respond."

Officials said that they are planning to post job openings for full-time chief and part-time officers and the contract that was approved on January 4th includes a 6 percent raise. 
For corrections or revisions, click here.
The opinions reflected in this article are not necessarily the opinions of LET
Sign in to comment


Powered by LET CMS™ Comments

Get latest news delivered daily!

We will send you breaking news right to your inbox

© 2024 Law Enforcement Today, Privacy Policy