Col. O’Donnell reflects on career ahead of last day in law enforcement

RI State Police Col. Steven O'Donnell

(WPRI) — It’s the last day on the job for the head of the Rhode Island State Police. Colonel Steven O’Donnell has worked in law enforcement for 30 years, with the last five as State Police Superintendent.

Eyewitness News Reporter Perry Russom sat down with Colonel O’Donnell on the night before his last day.

“When I leave, when I close that door tomorrow at 5, there’s emotion that goes with that when I go home, then you realize that your career in law enforcement is over.”

Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Barry has been named O’Donnell’s temporary replacement. The governor’s Chief of Staff said they would consider outside candidates for the permanent job.

“That doesn’t mean she’s not looking here. She’s made it very clear that Rhode Island State Troopers can apply for that job. Firstly, I’m biased for my organization. This is a strong, strong group of men and women. There’s so much different about this culture here. So, keeping that culture alive is something really important and from my perspective, Kevin Barry is the guy,” O’Donnell said.

Police are facing a challenging time in this country, with violent protests in North Carolina after a black man was shot and killed by an officer. O’Donnell explained what his force need to do going forward.

“We have this outstanding group of community leaders that have bought into what we’re doing and that’s from the trooper level right on up to Lt. Col. Barry. He’ll continue that and in fact next week, Col. Barry is running a forum to bring those community leaders back in to have that conversation because North Carolina, Tulsa, wherever it may be, it could be here.”

Despite his retirement, O’Donnell said he will continue to try to improve and strengthen police-community relationships.

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