Panel Interviews Finalists to be Hastings' Top Cop

BJ Wilkinson

It's been more than a decade since the city of Hastings held interviews for a police chief. A committee of seven is taking their time to get to know the four finalists, in their search for the Hastings Police Chief.

Police are there when you need them. But one man who wants to be the top cop in Hastings says officers should also be at soccer games and the next pew in church as integral members of the community.

BJ Wilkinson is currently police chief in Litchfield, Illinois, a city about half the size of Hastings.

Nebraska caught his eye as a nice place to live, and he says it's closer to family.

He says the department is well-run and says it's in line with how he operates.

"The department I've got now is hands-on, community-oriented. I believe a police officer should be as much a part of the community and everyday life as employees of the city," he said. "People need to know we're real people and real neighbors and real moms and dads. I think that's important."

The second candidate to be interviewed is no stranger to Hastings.

Adam Story has been with the Hastings Police Department since 1995.

He's currently a captain and says he learned a lot from retired chief Larry Thoren, the man whose shoes one of the candidates will soon fill.

Story said, "He was a great mentor and taught me a lot of great things, a lot of how to interact and deal with the community, the services to provide to the community, if we're providing the right services. He's been a great mentor."

The interviews with a panel of seven selected by the mayor are the last step in the selection process. The mayor will have the final say on who serves as the new police chief.