Governor’s Office Releases Report of Investigation into State Patrol

Governor’s Office Releases Report of Investigation into State Patrol

LINCOLN — A probe of the Nebraska State Patrol has substantiated claims that members of the command staff, including then-Col. Brad Rice, improperly meddled with and manipulated internal investigations and downplayed reports of excessive use of force and sexual harassment within the agency.

Rice, who was fired last month as head of the patrol, interfered in at least four internal investigations cases, according to the 15-page report released Thursday. The review had been ordered by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

In one case in which a state trooper had struck a drunken driving suspect in the head with a rifle butt, Rice sought to downplay the incident even though others in the patrol had described it as “shocking to the conscience,” the report said.

In another case the colonel helped manage the response into a high-speed chase that ended with the death of a fleeing suspect, and potentially influenced the conclusion of an internal probe into the chase.

In addition, the report said Rice failed to correct the “inaction” of the patrol in regard to a complaint of sexual harassment — a questionable “hernia” exam that prompted a federal lawsuit earlier this week. A formal investigation into the female trooper’s complaints didn’t begin until the Governor’s Office intervened.

“I don’t think the colonel (Rice) displayed the leadership he ought to have,” said a grim-faced Ricketts at a press conference Thursday. “That’s why I asked him to leave the State Patrol.”

The report comes after several stories by The World-Herald involving allegations of meddling and manipulation by patrol commanders into internal investigations done by the patrol, and after a lawsuit alleging that female State Patrol recruits were forced to show their genitals as part of a pre-employment “hernia check.”

One of those earlier stories helped prompt Ricketts, a first-term Republican, to ask his chief human resources officer, Jason Jackson, on June 23 to investigate the policies, procedures and leadership of the State Patrol.

A week later, Rice was fired by Ricketts, who had hired Rice in 2015 to lead the patrol despite concerns from some state lawmakers.

The governor said that while he could not “rewrite history” about that hiring decision, he took action as soon as he learned of the meddling and manipulation that was detailed in Thursday’s report.

“I can only act on the information I had. When that information was presented to me, I acted on it,” Ricketts told reporters.

Jackson, a former Navy officer, said his probe had “substantiated” concerns that led to the firing of Rice. Six other patrol officers and troopers have been placed on paid administrative leave as an internal probe and a criminal investigation by the FBI continue.

Read full article from the Omaha World Herald here.