In a significant development in the Village of Big Bend, Wisconsin, nearly half of the local police force resigned in a single day. This mass exodus of five officers from the department was announced following complaints about a toxic work environment attributed to the village board’s actions.
The situation escalated after the village board initially decided to disband the police department in September, a decision that was later reversed due to local pressure. However, the department suffered a major blow when the town’s long-serving Police Chief, Don Gaglione, tragically died by suicide.
The tensions reached a boiling point at a village meeting last month, where one of the now-resigned officers, James Soneberg, vocally criticized another ordinance aimed at eliminating the town’s Police and Fire Commission. Soneberg, along with fellow officer Joseph Honzelka and three other officers, announced their resignations shortly afterward.
The officers who resigned included Sergeant Jamie Aide, Officer Nathaniel Schweitzer, Officer Justin Hennlich, Officer Honzelka, and Officer Soneberg. Their departure, along with Chief Gaglione’s death, represents a loss of over 125 years of combined law enforcement experience for the village.
Following these resignations, the Big Bend Police Department is left with only one full-time officer and six part-time officers. This drastic reduction in staff has raised concerns about the village’s ability to provide adequate police services. Mark Anderson, the chairman of the Fire and Police Commission, also resigned, citing the village board’s harassment and the impact of their decisions on the community.
Village board president Jeff Goodman, however, downplayed concerns about policing in Big Bend. He stated that the village’s proximity to Milwaukee and the well-staffed Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department would ensure continued police protection.
The remaining members of the Big Bend Police Department have assured residents that they will continue to serve and protect the community despite the challenges. The situation in Big Bend highlights the complex dynamics between local government decisions and law enforcement, and the impact on small community policing.