State legislators debated the nomination of Brad Rice as superintendent of the State Highway Patrol for more than two hours before confirming his nomination on a 32-to-7 vote.
Opponents claim Rice has discriminated against women, too freely shared his Christian faith with others on the job, and might have used excessive force during his 29-year tenure with the patrol.
Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus supported his nomination, mainly because he received a call from a female trooper who he trusts who told him Rice was OK.
“And, because of that opinion, I’m going to be supporting this nomination and recognizing we all say things, do things we might regret, but in the end, if we’re good people, we’re OK,” Schumacher told colleagues during the more than two hours of legislative floor debate.
That, though, didn’t strike Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln as good enough.
“We need more than OK, Sen. Schumacher,” Bolz stated. “We need someone who is excellent and someone who is taking extraordinary and exceptional steps to make sure that we are doing the best that we can in an inclusionary, community-based, smart, equal manner.”
Other senators made the same point, claiming the debate needed to be broadened. They say clashes between police and minorities in other cities should make Nebraska lawmakers more wary about someone accused of discrimination against women.
Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion dismissed an accusation that Rice once claimed women shouldn’t be in law enforcement.
“Politics today is not a clean sport anymore,” Kintner said. “The ‘got you’ game is alive and well, especially in elective politics, but in these type of cases, also.”
Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm didn’t see it that way.
“I don’t believe this is a game of ‘got you’ at all. And I believe this is a game,” Haar said, then paused, “Not a game, this is a matter of appointment to a very high office within state government.”
Even whether Rice made the comment about women is in question. Conflicting statements were made by senators. Some said he never made the comment. Others claimed Rice said it was taken out of context.
Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte defended Rice, who served with the patrol for 29 years before retiring in 2010.
“Mr. Rice is a good man,” Groene stated. “If I went through life in a public position and to only have one person step forward and say I said something, I would be blessed.”
But, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks pointed out Rice is also accused of too freely sharing his Christian faith while on the job, among other accusations.
“Sen. Groene said he was a good man,” Pansing Brooks stated. “To me, I think we’re under the three strike rule. He had gender issues that had to be discussed. He had excessive force issues that had to be discussed. And he had proselytizing issues that had to be discussed.”
Despite the controversy, Rice was confirmed. He succeeds Col. David Sankey.