The appointment last week of John Bolduc as the newest superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol checked off many boxes of the type of candidate many hoped to see fill the position.
He’s an experienced officer and supervisor who has worked in law enforcement for 31 years. To best serve and understand Nebraska’s distinct, diverse populations, his previous work and leadership in small communities, suburban areas and urban centers are a major bonus.
Most importantly, Bolduc pitched himself as a “cultural change agent,” one that Gov. Pete Ricketts said has extensive experience communicating to and improving the departments he’s led. The nominee received a unanimous recommendation from an accomplished search committee.
As an outsider, Bolduc is an ideal position to create the change needed in the State Patrol following turmoil and leadership under its previous superintendent.
In the press conference announcing his appointment, Bolduc acknowledged the State Patrol has problems that need to be overcome. With state officials publicly stating there was probable cause his predecessor, Col. Brad Rice, had committed a crime and forwarding the results of an internal investigation to the FBI, Bolduc knows he’s entering the job at a difficult time.
External allegations of improper use of force, mishandling of internal affairs, violations of anti-harassment and equal opportunity policies – the impact of actions before Bolduc’s appointment won’t simply disappear. He must be proactive and crystal clear in laying out his vision for the State Patrol’s future under his leadership and insisting such missteps won’t be tolerated.
The first step to preserving the credibility threatened by actions that predate his arrival isn’t to sweep them under the rug. Instead, new leadership must work with high-ranking officers to ensure such mistakes aren’t repeated and that the integrity and reputation of the State Patrol remain impeccable.
Two of the four finalists were captains in the State Patrol. To advance that far in the process, they’ve clearly served Nebraska admirably and must not have been involved in what Ricketts has called “interference in internal investigations at the highest level” of the department. These men will serve critical roles during the upcoming transition.
Still, a fresh start, under the command of a leader from an outside agency is the right call for the State Patrol at the present. The department needs to right its course and pursue a new direction – and a seasoned superintendent from a different background was a proper call.
Though Bolduc is slated to begin his new duties Oct. 16, he will require approval by the Legislature when it reconvenes in January. Lawmakers should confirm him and give him the free rein needed to pursue the cultural change he promised before his nomination.