LINCOLN — A Nebraska State Patrol trooper was fired, two officers stepped down and four other employees were punished following a probe into allegations that the agency mishandled internal investigations, the patrol's superintendent said Wednesday.
Patrol Superintendent John Bolduc announced that one lieutenant colonel retired, one sergeant resigned and one trooper was fired. Additionally, two officers were demoted and two others received unspecified punishments.
The announcement capped an investigation that Gov. Pete Ricketts ordered amid allegations that patrol officials downplayed and failed to adequately report alleged misconduct cases in northwest Nebraska.
One incident involved a South Dakota man who was killed in Sheridan County when a trooper used a tactical maneuver to bump his vehicle during a high-speed chase. The other involved a trooper in Sioux County who was shown on video striking an intoxicated man in the head with a rifle butt after the man ignored orders to get on the ground.
"The disciplinary actions issued today reflect our values as a law enforcement agency," Bolduc said in a news conference. "Public trust and accountability are paramount in our ability to serve the public."
Bolduc refused to identify any of the affected employees or specify what misconduct occurred, citing confidentiality rules. He described the seven as veteran state troopers and "good people" but said disciplinary action was needed in each case.
"Even good people make mistakes, and some mistakes have serious consequences," he said.
Bolduc said investigators conducted 46 interviews and spent a collective 1,300 hours looking into how patrol employees handled both incidents.
The State Troopers Association of Nebraska, a union representing some of the patrol members, said it would fully support at least two of those who were disciplined: Trooper Tim Flick, who was involved in the Sheridan County crash; and Sgt. Travis Wallace, who was called to that crash scene to reconstruct the accident.
In a statement, the association said Flick has served the state for more than two decades and was shot multiple times during a hostage standoff with a gunman in Alliance in 2012. It also noted that his use of the tactical maneuver during the fatal high-speed chase was reviewed by a grand jury, which ultimately cleared him of any wrongdoing. He was cleared once again during an initial internal investigation in fall 2016, the group said.
The troopers' union "is in complete support of Trooper Flick, and will not rest until this unjust offense against his reputation is reversed in arbitration," the group said.
The state troopers' union said Wallace was disciplined for technical policy violations and accepted responsibility, but he could still appeal the level of punishment imposed.
Ricketts hired Bolduc in September after firing the patrol's previous superintendent, Col. Brad Rice, in June. Ricketts appointed Rice in 2015.
Rice was fired after a separate personnel investigation found that Nebraska State Patrol leaders tried to influence the outcome of at least four internal reviews, failed to disclose a dozen alleged cases of trooper misconduct and didn't properly investigate sexual harassment accusations.
Rice was removed from his job after a review found that he downplayed the significance of the trooper who struck the intoxicated man with a rifle butt and told patrol investigators not to look into allegations that the trooper lied about the incident. It also found that the patrol delayed an internal investigation into the fatal high-speed chase because some troopers disputed that an investigation was needed.