Nebraska patrol still developing community outreach policy

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The new head of the Nebraska State Patrol is defending his proposed outreach program that would encourage on-duty troopers to attend county fairs, public celebrations, sporting events and church services.

Col. Brad Rice, who has been leading the agency since March, remains committed to the idea of the program even though internal emails obtained by the Omaha World-Herald ( ) show that it has been criticized by some.

Capt. Lance Rogers told Rice in an email that the public might not support uniformed troopers attending church while on duty.

“As a taxpayer, I would be extremely disappointed that state employees using state resources are allowed to attend church functions,” wrote Rogers, who works in the patrol’s administrative unit in Lincoln. “Citizens expect to see troopers out on the roads, not sitting in church pews.”

Rogers was one of five ranking officers who expressed concerns in the emails released to the newspaper about troopers attending services. But others backed the idea.

“I think this is a good idea and great opportunity for recruiting, especially local county fairs or even career days at area high schools,” Investigator Shanon Koubek said in a July 17 email.

Rice said he wants troopers to build relationships with the community when they have time in their shifts.

“We want people to know we are the guardians of democracy,” he said. “That’s the message we want to send out to the public. We’re there, we’re the good guys.”

He said the program isn’t intended to let troopers attend their weekly church service with their families while on duty. And church attendance is just one part of the program.

Having troopers interact with the public more can generate tips that lead to arrests, Rice said.

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