PROVIDENCE — Just days after Col. Brendan Doherty announced his resignation as Superintendent of the State Police, Gov. Lincoln Chafee has selected U.S. Marshal Steven O’Donnell as his replacement.
Chafee introduced O’Donnell as “a leader who has not only met expectations, but continuously exceeded them during a long and distinguished career.” He recalled that, in 1996, then-President Bill Clinton named O’Donnell as one of the nation’s 10 “Top Cops.”
The governor confirmed that O’Donnell was the only candidate seriously considered for the position and said he is “completely confident” that O’Donnell “is the right person for this job.”
O’Donnell, who will be the 12th Superintendent in the history of the State Police, is expected to begin the job on or about June 1.
He said Monday that “since I was a teenager, my goal was to be a RI State Trooper. The State Police is embedded in me, as it were my own DNA.” He said he is honored to be chosen to lead “an organization that has always been beyond reproach and understand and respects it traditions.”
He pledged to lead by example and “maintain the high standards of excellence within the State Police and continue to move this organization forward.”
O’Donnell also promised continuity at the top levels of the department.
“Although there are different faces at times, the State Police command staff will never change, nor will the State Police ever change who they are. The faces may be different -- newer, older – but the command staff we have a year from now, 10 years from now, will be the same type of people, and that’s one of my missions.”
O’Donnell joined the State Police in 1986 and served on the force for 22 years. During that time, he was a trooper, detective commander, field operations officer, chief of field operations, deputy superintendent and lieutenant colonel. Before joining the force, he was a North Kingstown police officer and an ACI guard.
Asked about enforcement of immigration laws, which came as a point of contention between Chafee and Doherty just a week before Doherty abruptly announced his retirement, O’Donnell said, he had talked with the governor and his staff “at length” about the issue.
“The governor fully supports Attorney General (Peter) Kilmartin’s position with (the federal Secure) Communities Program and his goal is to take violent offenders off the streets, his goal is to protect the citizens of Rhode Island.” He said the State Police would work with the attorney general’s office to monitor the program to make sure it is working properly.
“It is my concern that the RI State Police continue to do the job they are paid to do and if that means we use Secure Communities to get that job done, then we do so,” O’Donnell said.
Doherty attended the announcement ceremony, telling those assembled that “I’d like to say to my fellow Rhode Islanders that we are in good hands with the future appointment of Steven G. O’Donnell.” He praised Chafee with a “job well done” for selecting O’Donnell.
“I wish you well, my friend and I will always be there to support you,” he told O’Donnell.
O’Donnell in turn thanked Doherty for recommending his appointment to the governor.
The appointment must be confirmed by the state Senate.
House Speaker Gordon Fox told O’Donnell, “You coming back home to the State Police is in my eyes, a wonderful selection, a wonderful pick. The State Police are so professional, so integral to what we do here in the state.” He added that, “the people of Rhode Island are safer and more protected and this state will perform better knowing we have people like Steve O’Donnell at the helm.”
Attorney General Peter Kilmartin praised O’Donnell’s appointment.
“Marshal O’Donnell is an excellent choice for Superintendent of the State Police and Commissioner of Public Safety. Having served as U.S. Marshal, O’Donnell understands the importance of working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in a coordinated effort to investigate and arrest those who break the law. I am confident he will serve the State Police, and the people of Rhode Island, with great character, integrity and honor. I look forward to working with him, and as attorney general, pledge our continued cooperation with our law enforcement partners in protecting our communities.”