Confrontation between GOP lawmakers, state troopers becomes focus of Senate confirmation hearing
Col. Pat Callahan is one step closer to be being confirmed as superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, but his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday focused on the lack of answers about a confrontation between Republican lawmakers and state troopers earlier this month.
Callahan has been at Gov. Phil Murphy's side for hundreds of coronavirus briefings and led the state police as acting superintendent for the last four years.
"We need to see ourselves more as guardians of peace than as warriors," says Callahan. "And I think we're making those strides here in New Jersey."
The hearing that would bring him one step closer to being permanent superintendent was supposed to be a triumphant moment for Callahan, a 26-year veteran of the state police whose father was a career trooper.
"For many of us who wear this French blue uniform the smell of Kiwi shoe polish and Brasso takes us back to shining leather and brass at the academy, but for me it takes me back to my kitchen table," says Callahan.
Lawmakers had questions about troopers' attempts to enforce the statehouse vaccination mandate on rebellious Republican lawmakers on Dec. 2.
"In this forum or in any other at this juncture, senator I am unable, it's inappropriate for me to comment on that," says Callahan.
Frustrated lawmakers from both parties grilled Callahan, who continuously dodged questions about the incident.
"Did the Attorney General consult with you at all, yes or no?" says Sen. Steve Sweeney.
Callahan responded saying, "With all due respect it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the content of that letter at this juncture."
Sweeney answered by saying, "And with all due respect colonel, I think you're stonewalling us."
Sen. Troy Singleton also addressed the matter.
"The state police's checkered history with African-American and Hispanic motorists is well documented," says Singleton. "Your acknowledgment that that has touched your life as a trooper, I appreciated that candor."
Callahan addressed the matter that he was twice accused of racial profiling early in his career but cleared by an internal investigation in both cases.
"Both ended up in civil litigation of which one I won with regards to a summary judgment and in the second one the state made a settlement," says Callahan.
That full career led even detractors like outgoing Democratic president Steve Sweeney to vote for Callahan.
"I'm not gonna ruin an entire career's worth of work based on a disagreement here," says Sweeney.
A full vote on Callahan's nomination could come as early as Monday.
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