Being a police officer was never about writing a speeding ticket or locking someone up behind bars for Capt. David Wilkie, with the Dickinson Police Department. For him it was always about community and helping others.
Wilkie formally retired on Nov. 27 from the Dickinson Police Department after serving over 21 years. In his tenure he led numerous initiatives such as the Citizen’s Police Academy, Youth Explorers and the Reserve Officer program. Earlier this week, the department honored Wilkie's selfless service with a celebratory cake and send-off party.
In an interview with The Press, Wilkie reflected on his two-decades of service in the community.
“I liked the stuff like recovering little kids’ bikes after they’ve been stolen. (I enjoyed) helping people, not writing citations and putting people in jail. I wanted to help the community and help the people in the community. It wasn’t about throwing people in jail for me,” Wilkie said.
Growing up in Dickinson for most of his life, Wilkie always had an inclination that he was born to be a police officer. His father was a military policeman when he served in the Korean War, something the young Wilkie saw as a calling in his life. But putting on the badge took a little bit longer than he expected as he was presented with the difficult decision of accepting a scholarship at Dickinson State University and enlisting in the United States military.
Wilkie recalled his entrance to law enforcement as being a more “round-about way.”
After graduating from DSU with a bachelor’s degree in music education with a minor in computer science, Wilkie acted on his true calling — law enforcement. He joined the reserve program in Dickinson to see if being a police officer would suit him and whether it would be a career option he could succeed in.
Wilkie began his law enforcement career as a police officer for the Bowman Police Department when he was 34 years old, and worked there for 18 months. Transferring to the Dickinson Police Department in 1999, the soft spoken Wilkie began making a name for himself. Slowly he worked his way up the ranks from a patrolman to his 2008 promotion to sergeant. In 2010, he was again promoted to sergeant of criminal investigations before finally being promoted to Captain in 2012.
“Every aspect of it was different. The patrol part of it was absolutely excellent. I really liked working with the community. The detective job I really enjoy being a detective. (With) administration, I did a lot of things with the community again, and I really enjoyed that,” Wilkie noted.
All in all, Wilkie said he was most humbled by the life saving efforts he was a part of during his time of service. With four life saving awards from the department, the moment that most stands out in his memory is an incident when he and another officer helped stop a girl from committing suicide by jumping off a bridge into interstate traffic below.
“She was totally convinced that she was going to kill herself and had talked herself into it," he recalled. "We were able to talk her off the bridge and keep her from jumping.”
Stories like the successful negotiation with the woman on the bridge and others began to pour out of his memory bank as he reflected on his career.
He remembered well a specific case that affected him for a long time, and even to this day. Wilkie said he was most working a shaken baby case in Dickinson, and recalled working diligently to get a conviction on the father who had severely injured his newborn, causing severe head trauma.
Like many in emergency services, Wilkie's experiences have left an indelible mark on him personally. Yet, despite the memories he said he would do it all again given the chance.
Over Wilkie’s 21 year span in law enforcement, the force as a whole changed multiple times over the years. When Wilkie joined the ranks, the police mentality was more of a militaristic tone, he said, explaining it as a “us-against-them attitude.” Over time, the department began changing its policies in an effort to become more of a community police department. According to Wilkie, today's Dickinson Police Department is much more diverse with officers of many different races and sexes, but united in a single cause of service to others.
Community involvement was an overriding obligation that spurred Wilkie to spend a tremendous amount of time serving on committees, including those that helped people who had special needs. Among the committees he served on were the Dickinson Public School Board and the Southwest Regional Disaster Coalition, which involved provides aid for flood or tornado victims.
While Wilkie may have hung up his badge for dog days of retirement, he knows that his service to Dickinson will never end.
The Dickinson Police Department have confirmed that they do not currently plan to fill Wilkie's position, rather Chief Dustin Dassinger said they are considering its departmental resources and will be figuring out “what best aligns the needs of the community right now.”
The former duties of Wilkie have been divided and assigned to several different officers with DPD.
“Capt. Wilkie has been very dedicated to the community; he’s served on a variety of boards. He’s always had the best interest of the community at heart and he will be missed by the citizens of Dickinson in the capacity that he served as captain,” Dassinger remarked.
Both Dassinger and Wilkie started their careers at the Dickinson Police Department at approximately the same time. They spent a good portion of time together in the patrol division, before each working their way up the chain of command.
"Wilkie’s character and legacy will be missed by the department," Dassinger said. “I think he’s a man of higher integrity, morals and obviously has a big heart when it comes to working with the community.”
Reflecting on the years past, Wilkie said that crimes differ from when he first started in law enforcement. With the advancement of technology, internet crime has become more prevalent than before as computers were not the state-of-the-art back in the 1990s. Underage smoking used to be the norm, but now the issue has become vaping. He said that while though crimes have been replaced by newer inventions and technology, the rate remains the same in this area.
"Law enforcement still deals with 1% of the population, which is mainly the criminals of society," he said. “I have a really strong support system here at my house."
Wilkie added, "I worked and then I came home and then I was family man and then I did all the things that every normal person does.”
As typical of the soft spoken giant at DPD, Wilkie pushed credit for his accomplishments on to others in thanks to friends and family for their support.
“It’s crazy to think that I did anything for 21 years. I mean that’s a long time to do a single job,” he said, adding that his family kept him grounded throughout his career. "My wife’s been fantastic for the last 21 years…"
Speaking of his plans for retirement, Wilkie said he was unsure of what his retirement plans are, but hoped to continue working with the community and enjoy some quality downtime with his family.