The top two leaders of the Kansas Highway Patrol abruptly resigned from their jobs Thursday in a shake-up of the state’s largest law enforcement agency.
Shawnee County Sheriff Herman Jones, a former KHP administrator and trooper, will take over the agency on Wednesday, said Gov. Laura Kelly. The governor said Jones, with a 40-year career in law enforcement, was the right person to lead the agency "at this critical time."
Leaving the agency were Col. Mark Bruce, appointed to the superintendent’s post in 2015, and Lt. Col. Randy Moon, who was placed in that role by Bruce four years ago. Both had been employees at KHP since the 1980s.
Ashley All, the governor's spokeswoman, said she couldn't comment on the reason for their departure because it was a personnel matter. Bruce didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
In response to a request by The Topeka Capital-Journal for documents involving Moon, the Excelsior Springs, Mo., police department released a report on the investigation of alleged domestic assault at a hotel.
In December, Kelly said she would retain Bruce because he effectively led the KHP and was a strong advocate for law enforcement officers. She expressed confidence at that time he would “continue to put the safety of Kansans first” while leading KHP.
Jones led the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Department since 2012 and was a KHP trooper from 1982 to 1992 and was the agency's director of administration from 2000 to 2011. In 2011, Jones was named undersheriff to Shawnee County Sheriff Richard Barta. Jones was appointed sheriff after Barta's resignation in 2012, elected to the job later that year and re-elected in 2016.
“He has worked in municipal, county and state law enforcement and he has been a leader in law enforcement training and education," Kelly said. "Sheriff Jones is the right person to lead the Kansas Highway Patrol at this critical time."
Jones said he was honored to return to the agency and looked "forward to again working with the women and men of the Kansas Highway Patrol to strengthen our agency and improve public safety across Kansas."
KHP Maj. Jason De Vore, one of the agency's four executive officers, was named by the governor to serve as acting superintendent until Jones takes command.
Undersheriff Phil Blume will serve as interim sheriff for the county office.
Bruce was promoted to KHP colonel by then-Gov. Sam Brownback following retirement of KHP Col. Ernest Garcia, who was undermined by complaints from troopers pointing to low morale and broad dissatisfaction with leadership offered by Garcia and other KHP brass. Garcia said the criticism was a result of his effort to dismantle a “good ol’ boy” network in the KHP administration.
In late December, Excelsior Springs, Mo., police officers were called to a purported domestic assault at The Elms Resort.
A police report of that incident, provided after The Capital-Journal asked for documents involving Moon, redacted names of the victim and suspect engaged in the dispute. The report indicated no charges were filed.
The report revealed a white, male suspect was at the resort with a white woman on Dec. 26, 2018. Officers were told by the front desk attendant that the male suspect was “a Kansas state trooper,” an assertion affirmed when the victim gave a statement to police.
In addition, a hotel employee told officers “the female party appeared to be in intense pain.” The woman allowed officers into her hotel room. The woman, according to the police report, said “she did not want any trouble.”
The officers’ report said the woman was apprehensive about presence of Excelsior Springs law enforcement officers at the hotel.
“She would provide a little bit of information, then advise she did not want to tell us any more,” the report said.
Eventually, the woman informed officers that she and her boyfriend had “too much to drink.” She said there was an argument involving her boyfriend and he “tossed her.” The victim was provided a domestic-abuse pamphlet by officers and KHP dispatch was notified of the incident in Missouri.
An Excelsior Springs police captain later spoke on speaker telephone to the alleged perpetrator and alleged victim, and the woman during the call “denied having told the officers that she had been tossed” and “denied she had an injury to the side of her face.”
That follow-up information prompted the police department to close the investigation, the report said.
Names can legally be redacted from copies of the report released to the public when an incident doesn't result in an arrest and is more than a month old, said Barb Eckles, records supervisor with the Excelsior Springs Police Department.