State Police Col. Doherty talks about his resignation

Rhode Island State Police Col. Brendan Doherty announced this afternoon that he is resigning effective April 1. Doherty’s resignation comes as a surprise, though it does follow an awkward showdown last week between him and Governor Chafee over Secure Communities.

My colleague Tim White just got off the phone with Doherty. Here are some highlights from their conversation – including the possibility that the Carcieri confidante will run against Senator Whitehouse next year:

Why now?

“I’ve been thinking about this for some time. There have been rumors that I will have a future in other capacities. I do have a future plan to stay engaged in public service.”

Are you planning to run for Senate against Sheldon Whitehouse next year?

“I’ll make the decisions as to what I’m going to do at a later date and then I will make an announcement at the appropriate time.”

You have devoted your life to law enforcement; this couldn’t have been an easy decision.

“I do this with a heavy heart – I love this department and I love the people of the state of Rhode Island. I’ll look after this department until the day I die.”

Did the governor ask you to step down?

“No, the governor did not ask me to step down. In fact I met with the governor for about an hour today. It was a cordial meeting.”

Any thoughts on a replacement?

“I am confident the governor values the tradition of the department and will keep it in the hands of someone who has been with the State Police.”

The R.I. Senate reconfirmed Doherty, who was appointed by Gov. Don Carcieri in 2007, to another term without objection just last week.

Tim reports the short list of potential replacements for Doherty includes U.S. Marshal for Rhode Island Steven O’Donnell, who was formerly a deputy superintendent of the state police. Tim has a call in to O’Donnell; we’ll update if we hear more.

The AP’s Michelle Smith reports Doherty’s successor could be announced as soon as today, citing Chafee spokesman Mike Trainor.

For more on Doherty, check out two extended video interviews Tim did with him in recent years as part of our Mafia coverage: a recent conversation about “Baby Shacks” and one from last year about reputed mob enforcer Kevin Hanrahan. Doherty – an Attleboro native – also got the full Projo profile treatment in 2009.

Update: Col. Doherty says he will make a decision by the end of May on his future plans, which could include a run for political office, Tim White reports from the colonel’s press conference in Scituate, where Doherty was decked out in a blue suit and a red tie.

Notably, Doherty declined to say whether he’s leaning toward running for the U.S. Senate against Whitehouse or – as some have been speculating – for the U.S. House against David Cicilline. Doherty is a Cumberland resident who lives in the 1st Congressional District.

Tim asked Doherty what his party affiliation is – Republican? Democrat? Moderate? – but the colonel demurred, saying he’d rather not talk about politics in the State Police Headquarters building.

Update #2: Governor Chafee told my colleague John Villella, our ace investigative photographer, that he’s sorry to see his first pick for state police leader head out the door.

“Colonel Doherty was a terrific public servant for many years for Rhode Island and I respect his decision,” Chafee said. He described the colonel’s departure as a “big loss,” and said it was a “great experience working with him over these short few weeks, and I know he’s going to do very well.”

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