A union that backed Pete Ricketts for governor four years ago is now backing his opponent in this year's run for governor.
At a Thursday press conference, the State Troopers Association of Nebraska announced that they have thrown their support behind Bob Krist. Union President Brian Petersen, a patrol sergeant, said that the endorsement comes following longtime concerns about staffing shortfalls. “Nebraska needs to have more authorized strength of troopers out there in patrol cars protecting the citizens and monitoring the highways.”
Petersen says the patrol isn't hiring enough to keep up with retiring troopers and that sometimes there is "minimal staffing" on the roads. Currently, the State Patrol is short-staffed by about 60 troopers, with only 424 officers on the payroll.
Along with the staffing concerns, Petersen said that the union also believes that the 2017 firing of a long-time trooper, following an internal affairs investigation, was unjust. “Our state troopers work hard in a dangerous, demanding job. They deserve leadership that is accountable and responsible, not a governor who passes the buck and tries to place the blame on rank and file.”
The incident in question was a pursuit involving 20 year veteran Tim Flick and a suspect who died in a 2016 high-speed pursuit. An investigation into the chase led to the firing of Colonel Brad Rice, the head of the State Patrol at the time. Rice's replacement, Colonel John Bolduc then fired Flick, prompting unrest within the patrol. Flick had been cleared by a grand jury and charges filed against him after the crash have been dropped. The fired trooper is currently fighting to get his job back through a lengthy arbitration process.
The union's endorsement of Krist comes as a bit of a shock to many as Petersen said he could not remember the last time the union backed a Democrat for governor.