Oakland police chief resigns and offers to give up law enforcement certificate

Investigations into misuse of funds, double-billing still underway

By: - August 10, 2022 2:53 pm
Buffalo County Sheriff's Office

Law enforcement officers, and other public officials, are barred from using public resources, like an official uniform, in a campaign advertisement. (Courtesy of the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office)

LINCOLN – The police chief in Oakland, under fire since a state audit revealed that he’d used $15,000 in city funds for personal items, has resigned, and is giving up his license to work as a law enforcement officer.

Terry Poland, who had served as police chief in the northeast Nebraska community since 2016, had been on paid administrative leave after a state audit in June stated that he’d used gift cards purchased by the city for a long list of personal items, from ice-fishing equipment to a $400 wake surfboard and a $950 glass basketball backboard. 

Double billed hours

There was also evidence in the audit that Poland and two other Oakland officers had double-billed that community and nearby Lyons for law enforcement patrols.

Oakland Mayor Ted Beckner said Wednesday that Poland had resigned in mid July as police chief.

Facing a possible state law enforcement standards investigation, Poland also has volunteered to surrender his state law enforcement certificate, a matter that will be taken up Aug. 17 by the Nebraska Police Standards Advisory Council.

Poland did not respond immediately to messages left with him on Wednesday, but Beckner said that negotiations are underway on an agreement with the former chief to reimburse Oakland. 

No ammunition purchases found

Poland had told Oakland officials that he was using the gift cards to purchase ammunition at Scheel’s, an explanation that was initially accepted by town officials. But a check by the state auditor found no record of such purchases. Instead, the audit uncovered purchases of a Yeti cooler, ice fishing gear, clothing and other items.

The mayor would not say if that restitution agreement would also involve the double billing. The State Auditor’s Office said that Poland had double-billed the two communities for about $3,500, raising concerns about fraud.

Burt County Attorney Edmund Talbot said Wednesday that he would not comment on the ongoing investigation into the double billing. The FBI, which was investigating the misuse of funds, did not respond immediately for a request for comment. 

In law enforcement since 2014

Poland is still listed with the state as an active officer with the Lyons Police Department, but Lyons Mayor Andy Fuston said that Poland had not worked for that community since the June audit.

Poland, 33, has been a certified law enforcement officer since February of 2014, according to Brenda Urbanek, the director of the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island. State records indicate that he had worked in Fremont, Polk County, Lyons and Scribner before taking the Oakland job in 2016, 

After the audit came out, Urbanek had filed an informal complaint against Poland, which could have led to administrative action against his law enforcement certificate. Instead, Poland offered to voluntarily surrender his certificate to work in law enforcement.

Urbanek said that once the license surrender is officially ratified by the State Crime Commission in October, that information will be entered into a national data base.

Beckner, the Oakland mayor, said he hopes to have a restitution agreement hammered out by early next month. He expressed frustration that the criminal investigations have not been completed.

Resignation ‘best’

“It’s time to move on,” Beckner said. “He couldn’t be on administrative leave any more, and resignation was the best way to go.

Both he and the Lyons mayor said they were advertising to hire new police officers.

The difficulty in hiring new law enforcement officers has been labeled a crisis by some state officials, particularly when it comes to rural areas. To address that, the Nebraska Legislature passed a law this spring setting aside $10 million over the next two years for hiring and retention bonuses for those joining smaller, law enforcement agencies.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.

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