After about 39 years in law enforcement and serving eight years as chief of the Wheatland Police Department, Allyn Wightman announced plans to retire in January.
At the age of 20, he was hired with the Kings County Sheriff’s Department. He went on to work for the Visalia Police Department – some of the positions he had included canine officer, SWAT member, juvenile detective, violent crimes detective, sergeant and eventually he was accepted as a lieutenant area commander.
“I worked up through the ranks, retiring as an area commander,” Wightman said. “... I retired in July 2011 and this job kind of fell in my lap ... so I lasted four months in retirement.”
“I’m not one to be able to sit behind a desk, I can now that I’m older, but back then, I was 20 when I was hired and I started in a jail,” Wightman said. “(In) this profession, not to quote Forrest Gump, but you never know what you’re going to get.”
He said, over the years, he has seen some bizarre cases, saved a couple of lives using CPR and caught a lot of “bad guys” when he worked with a canine – but one of the main highlights, he said, would be watching other officers grow in their careers.
“Mentoring young officers, being their advocate and watching them promote through the ranks,” Wightman said. “... Starting out as rookie officers and seeing where they are now from where they were is really gratifying.”
He said the Wheatland department is kind of like a training department – where young officers get their start and eventually move on to a larger agency.
“There’s not a lot that goes on here and young officers come here and get a realistic approach of this job,” Wightman said. “It’s not fast paced so they can learn the ins and outs and then they eventually move on to a larger agency.”
However, some officers stick around, he said, and he’s happy about that.
“They’re engrained and they’re invested in the community,” he said.
Chris Ellis, Wheatland police officer, has worked with Wightman for the last seven years and Wheatland is where his law enforcement career began.
“When I got out of the academy, there was almost a hiring freeze and a lot of law enforcement were being laid off all over the state and country,” Ellis said. “The chief gave me my one option and an opportunity to be here, so if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.”
Wightman said the department has come a long way since he first started.
“When I first got here, we were on Second Street and the police department was a double-wide mobile home,” he said. “We have since moved into this facility (on Main Street), have very modern equipment.”
Wightman said the department also had been buying used patrol vehicles.
“Through good fiscal management and keeping an eye on the budget, we don’t buy used cars anymore,” he said. “We buy top-of-the-line patrol cars, we have the best weapons, we provide officers with all of the mandated training plus additional training inside our training budget.”
Toni Gugliotti, administrative assistant with the department, who has been with the department since 2009, said she has been given several opportunities to get involved in a lot of different things since Wightman has been chief that she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do.
“(Wightman is) very open to requests for additional training,” Gugliotti said. “He also gives us opportunities to participate with other agencies and expand our knowledge and skill levels.”
Wightman said keeping a full staff has probably been one of the biggest challenges.
“We’re a 24/7 operation,” he said. “There’s eight sworn officers, including myself, so there’s seven patrolmen and I have four reserve officers, we rely heavily on them. So if one gets injured or one leaves, it puts a major burden on everyone else because we still have to provide that same coverage.”
He said keeping a recruiting pool and retention are two important things to keep in mind.
Wightman said he felt like it was time for him to retire and that it will be good for the department and community to have a new face.
“I think it will be good for the department because of bringing in a fresh set of eyes with new modern visions. I’m old school,” he said. “It will be good for the officers here, it will be good for the community. We’ve done some great things in eight years here but it’s time to get somebody fresh and energized.”
Wightman said he plans to take a break and relax for about six months but then would consider doing some consulting or interim chief work at small agencies before they hire or recruit a permanent chief. But it all depends.
“I’m kind of an energetic guy so standing around, doing nothing is not my style,” he said. “But I’ve got three grandkids so they’re going to occupy a lot of my time.”
Wightman said it’s been an honor to serve as the police chief for Wheatland.
“It’s been an honor to serve this community,” he said. “… I think we’ve created a very safe community here, the officers are responding on the spot, providing a good level of community service, we’re invested here and we want to keep Wheatland safe.”
Allyn Wightman, current Wheatland Police Chief, announced that he will be retiring in January 2020.
Jim Goodwin, Wheatland city manager, said the city will likely begin the recruitment process in September and expects the process to go into the fall and have someone on board by the first of the year.
While Goodwin has been with the city one year, he said he believes Wightman has been a highly professional chief and works very hard on training officers.
“He’s dedicated to the community and his officers,” Goodwin said. “... Allyn Wightman has been a fine police chief for the city of Wheatland and we will be sorry to see him go.”