Poplar Bluff police chief to retire after 22 years

Poplar Bluff Police Department Chief Danny Whiteley will be retiring tomorrow after 22 years as chief.
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 5:50 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT
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POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. (KFVS) - One of the longest serving law enforcement officers in the Heartland will work his last day on Friday, September 9.

Danny Whiteley spent the last 22 years as Poplar Bluff police chief, but it’s his first career love that defines him just as much as a badge and uniform.

Poplar Bluff Police Chief Danny Whiteley talks about the people he’s met during his 22 years as...
Poplar Bluff Police Chief Danny Whiteley talks about the people he’s met during his 22 years as chief.(KFVS)

“To a cowboy, Cheyenne Frontier Days is kind of the top of the desire to ever compete in,” Whiteley said as he points to one of the many rodeo pictures hanging on the wall in his office at the Poplar Bluff Police Department. “And I competed out there four or five times.”

Whiteley is as much a cowboy as he is a lawman.

Whiteley competing at a rodeo in Oklahoma.
Whiteley competing at a rodeo in Oklahoma.(Danny Whiteley)

The Poplar Bluff native started rough stock riding in 1966, six years before putting on his first badge. He met his wife at the rodeo and raised his family around it.

“The unique thing about rodeo cowboys--it’s a brotherhood that time doesn’t mean anything.”

Whiteley’s office pays tribute to both brotherhoods he’s served. Plaques and photos honoring his law enforcement service share space with his rodeo badges.

A sampling of the rodeo badges Chief Whiteley kept in his office.
A sampling of the rodeo badges Chief Whiteley kept in his office.(KFVS)

He points to one of the badges he received back in 1972 at Madison Square Garden.

“New York City. I’d never been any place like that before. Not too many places like that since,” he said.

But, Whiteley acknowledged that serving as police chief took him just as far.

“If you’d said, ‘Would you ever be on 60 Minutes?’ I’d say no. Ever meet a President in person and shake his hand? No. So, it just kind of happened as a result of my law enforcement career. I think that’s one of the strong points that we have in the Poplar Bluff Police Department,” he continued. “When we need assistance, we call and have people immediately down here.”

That’s just what happened back in October 2012, when a man later identified as a known child molester kidnapped a five-year-old girl.

“And within 3 hours, we had FBI agents and U.S. marshals down here from St. Louis and Cape Girardeau because we needed them,” Whiteley recalled.

That quick action brought the little girl back to her family and ultimately put Jeffery Shelton behind bars for 120 years.

“This past summer, I got a letter from her. And it brought tears to my eyes. She said, ‘now that I’ve grown up some, I realize even more what your all’s efforts done to save me.’ It was a tear-jerker.”

Whiteley’s never been afraid to speak his mind, which he and fellow law enforcement leaders did regarding Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Law.

He said it continues to keep departments like his from working with federal partners on gun-related crimes.

“There’s an old country song, ‘You stand up and testify.’ I’m going to stand up and testify. If you don’t say what you mean and mean what you say, there’s no use in talking,” he said.

Whiteley has talked for years about the need for a new police station.

He showed us the building, still under construction, in mid-August.

“Where we’re at now is like 8,000 square feet. This is 28,000 square feet,” he said.

It’s no coincidence Whiteley is retiring as his department settles into the new, state-of-the-art building.

He’ll get about a week in the new chief’s office. Then it’s time to hang up his badge and ride off into the sunset. Just not too quietly.

“It’s going to be a unique challenge to find something to take my time. But as we both know I’ll be finding something to do,” he said.

Danny Whiteley with his wife Gale and their two grandchildren.
Danny Whiteley with his wife Gale and their two grandchildren.(Danny Whiteley)

He’s not the sitting around kind. “No. No. Absolutely not,” he agreed with a laugh.

The city of Poplar Bluff will host a reception for Chief Whiteley on September 9 at the Black River Coliseum from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.