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This is why I'm suing to get my Patrol title back

Mark Bruce
Special to Gannett Kansas
Mark Bruce is the former superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol.

For several months, I have made a cordial, low-profile attempt to compel Kansas to follow law regarding my departure from the Kansas Highway Patrol last March.

Upon termination of an appointment to superintendent, if the appointee was a member of the patrol at the time appointed, they shall be returned to the last position held. For me, that was the rank of major.

Efforts for an amenable solution have been exhausted. My professional image was unjustly tarnished, my unemployment illegally orchestrated. Consequently, on Jan. 15, a lawsuit was filed in the Kansas Supreme Court naming the state of Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly and Acting Superintendent Herman Jones as defendants.

The following are irrefutable facts surrounding my forced departure:

On March 28, 2019, I was summoned to the office of Will Lawrence, Gov. Kelly’s chief of staff. I was told I was not going to be retained as superintendent and I needed to resign.

The next 45 minutes were dominated by discussion surrounding allegations against my assistant. The alleged incident occurred in Missouri in December 2018.

Upon being made aware of the incident, I had notified Mr. Lawrence. In less than 24 hours, the agency with jurisdiction opened and closed an investigation determining insufficient evidence existed to support wrongdoing. The case was so short of probable cause it was not forwarded to the prosecutor.

Exercising an abundance of caution to protect the patrol and its employee, I directed the Professional Standards Unit to open an internal investigation. Their report determined the incident to be void of law or policy violations.

During the investigative process, I consulted with the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Certification and Training. I was told I handled it well and due to the multiple layers of investigation, KSCPOST would probably not open a case file. That changed. Their finding mirrored the two previous investigations.

During my 30-year career, I earned the respect of agency members, the law enforcement community and the Kansas Legislature. As superintendent, I was able to improve every aspect of agency operations, drastically increasing staffing, creating a new pay plan and attaining international accreditation.

In November 2019, following Gov. Kelly’s election, she received overwhelming support to retain me as superintendent. This included endorsements from the Kansas State Troopers Association, the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, many of the state’s sheriffs, national law enforcement executives, current KHP employees and KHP retirees.

I was the first cabinet member announced by then Gov.-elect Kelly. I was the only Gov. Colyer cabinet member offered a permanent, four-year position on her staff.

At no time in my service to Govs. Brownback, Colyer or Kelly was my performance called into question. In January 2019, I was commended by Gov. Kelly’s staff on the investigatory attention given to a situation that weeks later resulted in my resignation.

I am flabbergasted by the reasons my spotless career was cut short. If my employer had a concern with me, I expected to be made aware of it. Instead, plans were made with my successor prior to March 28, forcing my resignation.

Unceremoniously shown the door, my image unjustly tarnished and robbed of the fanfare of a retirement reception, I was presented with a retirement certificate the governor refused to sign.

I will leave it to the reader to determine who or what actually led to my demise. It is obvious there was more than meets the eye. I have nothing to hide.

I am willing to take a polygraph examination. Perhaps those responsible would accept my open invitation to do likewise?

Mark Bruce is the former superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol.