Missouri Highway Patrol Superintendent Ron Replogle will retire on May 1, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Wednesday.
The news came hours before the state legislature began its probe into the governor's handling of the unrest in Ferguson. The grand jury's decision not to indict former Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown touched off a violent night of rioting in Ferguson on Nov. 24.
But Nixon said the timing of the announcement and the hearing were not related.
“The colonel indicated he felt he wanted to retire to be closer to his family,” Nixon said. “We began a process that led me to choose Maj. (Bret) Johnson. There was really no reason to wait any longer. It has nothing to do with that.”
Replogle, 55, has been in the position since 2010. He also helped oversee the cleanup from the Joplin tornado in 2011. Nixon will submit Johnson’s name to the Senate next month for confirmation.
In the news conference, Nixon again defended the state’s response to the unrest in Ferguson. The governor had faced criticism from Ferguson’s mayor and police chief for not sending in more National Guard troops.
“A police officer with years of experience, and right in that hot zone that summer dealing with all of the issues, could maintain safety better than bringing in a combat veteran trained to point his or her M1, or whatever other weapon, and pull the trigger,” Nixon said. “Like I say, I’m not happy about losing some buildings, but it was a great deal of discipline shown by all people involved.”
Nixon went on to say his administration had two priorities throughout the unrest: safety and free speech.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to doubt there was plenty of speech,” Nixon said. “There were a lot of folks talking in a lot of ways. And I think we clearly had free speech. We also succeeded in getting safety. Unfortunately, we lost a few buildings and that’s unfortunate, but the plan we put forth to have trained peace officers on that front edge … I think that’s one of the reasons we saw such discipline.”
St. Louis Rams
The governor also addressed the future of the St. Louis Rams in Wednesday’s news conference.
While he said his administration is going “to do what it takes (for St. Louis) to remain an NFL city,” he also said that the plan must involve:
- No new tax burdens on Missourians;
- Private financial commitment from NFL;
- Making a new stadium a public asset;
- A plan to maximize the value of the Edward Jones Dome;
- Redevelopment of a blighted area.
“I think these issues are going to be decided in a time frame that protects both the taxpayers as well as St. Louis’ status as an NFL city and hopefully home to the Rams,” the governor said.
Follow Ray Howze on Twitter: @RayHowze.