MORE than half a century of father and son policing comes to an end this weekend as Assistant Chief Constable Nick Wilkinson retires from the force that he has served for more than 30 years.
Nick joined Sussex Police as a recruit constable after leaving Eastbourne Grammar School in 1981, following in the footsteps of his dad, Derek, who had joined the old Eastbourne Borough Police in 1954.
His early years as a PC saw him deployed to police the miners’ strike in 1984/85 and he was on duty at the fateful Conservative Party conference in 1984 when Brighton’s Grand Hotel was ripped apart by an IRA bomb.
He has continued to police conferences in the city and returned as joint Gold Commander for the Labour Party conference in 2009.
His career has taken him from almost one end of Sussex to the other, being posted to Worthing after training in 1982 and embarking on a journey that has taken in Seaford, Hastings, Bexhill and Littlehampton where at 5am on July 2 2000 he became the search commander in the hunt for Sarah Payne, the eight-year-old girl who disappeared while playing in a cornfield at Kingston Gorse.
He remained in that role until the discovery of her body near Pulborough on July 17, sparking one of the country’s highest profile murder investigations and the eventual conviction of her killer, Roy Whiting.
Nick became staff officer to Chief Constable Ken Jones at a time of huge change for Sussex Police and the necessity of change has become significant in the latter part of his career.
As a chief superintendent he was the commander of the East Sussex Division, having overseen the merger of the old East Downs and Hastings and Rother divisions to form the new command.
In bidding farewell to colleagues he said, “What’s always impressed me about Sussex Police is that despite the many challenges we face, we still manage to adapt, innovate and improve our services to the public.
!The changes that we are bringing about as part of Serving Sussex 2015 are about so much more than making the £50 million savings that have been placed upon us.
“It is great to see a move back towards greater individual discretion and less bureaucracy through the introduction of things such as community resolution.
“From a personal point of view, I am proud to have been involved in the introduction of the Police National Database in Sussex and to have led the work on children and young people both within the force and as the Association of Chief Police Officers national lead.
“Policing has been my life and I will have strong bonds to Sussex Police for many years to come. The force is well prepared for the challenges and inevitable changes of the coming months and years and is in the hands of enormously capable and dedicated officers and staff.”
Nick’s life outside of the police will continue in a similar vein of public service as he takes up a new role as assistant head of integrated youth services at Kent County Council.