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Col. McQueen retires as state police superintendent

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Delaware State Police Superintendent Col. Nathaniel McQueen Jr. announced his retirement July 1 as he begins his new job as secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

“Col. McQueen dedicated nearly 32 years with the Delaware State Police and served with integrity to protect our communities and to keep Delawareans safe,” said Gov. John C. Carney Jr. in a press release. “He has an ability to connect with folks on a personal level and was a strong leader as the head of DSP. Though Col. McQueen is retiring as superintendent, I’m pleased that he will serve our state as the secretary of Safety and Homeland Security, especially as we continue building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

McQueen is the second-longest-serving superintendent in the agency’s history, starting Dec. 20, 2012.

“It has been the honor and privilege of my life to serve as the 25th colonel of the Delaware State Police. I have borne witness to the dedication, sacrifice, and courage exemplified by all members of the Delaware State Police family,” McQueen said. “Many of our accomplishments have been the direct result of the relationship with the community we serve. During these challenging times, the Delaware State Police is well-positioned to seize the opportunity to build upon its legacy of leadership and the progress of our state.”

Prior to joining the state police in 1988, McQueen served as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Holding true to the motto, “Semper Fidelis,” McQueen has remained loyal to what has been best for the citizens of and visitors to Delaware, as well as what has been best for the agency’s men and women, about whom he cares deeply.

Also extremely important to McQueen is his family with whom he resides in Bear: his wife, Freda S. McQueen; his son, Nathaniel McQueen III, and his daughter Nayla J. McQueen.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) celebrated McQueen’s place in history and his truly remarkable career.

“I was honored to work with him years ago and proud to see him rise to become the first African American superintendent of the state police,” she said. “His character and leadership are a model for Delawareans, young and old alike.”

Prior to becoming superintendent, McQueen served in many leadership roles, including patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, traffic lieutenant, criminal lieutenant and captain (troop commander) of Troops 9, 1, and 2. He was promoted to the rank of major for statewide operations, then New Castle County pperations, before being promoted to the rank of colonel.

Delaware Department of Justice Chief of Staff Robert M. Coupe said he was honored to have served with McQueen in the Delaware State Police and as Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security.

"Col. McQueen’s devoted service to our state, his vision for the future, commitment to progress and his steadfast leadership through challenging times stand as a solid example for all leaders to follow," Coupe said.

Lt. Col. Melissa A. Zebley also described the honor of having served as a member of the DSP executive staff with McQueen.

“His vision for enhancing our operational effectiveness, his tireless work ethic, and his unyielding commitment to serve our communities have been the hallmarks of his leadership,” Zebley said. “The culmination of Col. McQueen’s success is not simply measured in operational achievements; rather it is best measured by his impact on our division’s healthy culture and his commitment to the wellbeing and safety of its people.”

McQueen’s achievements include many items of direct service to the Delawareans. His accomplishments focus on improving the efficiency of business processes to advance public safety, and building transparency and trust.

From December 2012 through March 2020, his leadership has created tangible results to the citizens of Delaware. Those include:

Reducing both robberies and burglaries 62%,

Reducing thefts (excluding shoplifting) 52%,

Reducing non-family aggravated assaults 26%,

Increasing proactive DUI arrests 19% when the trooper halted the offense before the operator caused a crash.

Increasing proactive drug investigations 70%,

Increasing robbery clearance rates between 15 and 20%,

Increasing burglary and theft clearance rates by about 10%.

In large part, this effectiveness came from the 2014 implementation of the International Association of Chiefs of Police award-winning stratified policing model State Police Enhanced Analytical Response, launching SmartForce technology, according to the state police press release. Providing immediate statistical results to troopers and the community has led to more effective enforcement strategies, expedited investigations, reduced crime, and improved traffic safety.

Along with benefits to residents and state awards the programs received, the results have also been noticed nationally.

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators named McQueen the 2019 Lifetime Achievement in Highway Safety award recipient in the law enforcement category. In 2019, the Center for Police Practice, Policy and Research recognized him for implementing innovative strategies that brought change and improved policing, naming him the recipient of the 2019 Excellence in Policing Award. These national accolades signify many small, meaningful changes, all focused upon quality service to the public.

Under his leadership, DSP made 90 days’ worth of crime information publicly accessible around-the-clock through Crimemapping.com. Similarly, using WordPress and major social media platforms accelerated public information-sharing regarding crimes, crashes, trends, and wanted individuals. DSP became the first state police agency in the nation to use the social media platform Nextdoor.com to deliver direct messages to communities needing specific crime prevention reminders.

At McQueen’s direction, each patrol troop began hosting public "year in review" sessions annually to make information-sharing more conversational. Additionally, when the new Troops 3 and 7 were built, each was designed with a community room to allow for public meetings and gatherings.

Building on legacy programs like the Citizens Police Academy and Trooper Youth Week, McQueen established the statewide Community Outreach Unit in 2015 to improve interpersonal connections with the community. Since that time, DSP expanded to offer:

State Troopers Actively Reaching Students (STARS) for lunchtime chats with elementary students;

Backpack and school supply drives,

Halloween Trunk or Treat events,

Thanksgiving food drives,

Trooper Youth Program,

Community Café or Coffee with a Commander,

Honorary Troop Commander partnerships,

Focus groups to assess community needs,

Troopers teaching at the Delaware Technical and Community College Junior Police Academy.

McQueen has been dedicated to families and their needs, according to the press release. He spearheaded multiple donor-funded renovations at Camp Barnes, the police-managed 73-year-old free overnight youth camp.

Camp Director Master Cpl. J. Shawn Hatfield, praised the Superintendent’s personal commitment: “Col. McQueen attended every significant event or ceremony at the camp, and he was always supportive of everything we did at Camp Barnes.”

In addition to relationship-based outreach operations, DSP implemented many tools and training for more efficient service in the Communications Section. McQueen called for the analysis of troop 9-1-1 call volumes. This resulted in realigning the service boundaries of Troops 3 and 9 to provide more expedient emergency call responses.

DSP recognized the need for more widespread knowledge to prevent and respond to active-shooter situations, training its first violent intruder preparedness and response facilitator in 2015. Since then, 20,000 Delawareans have become better equipped to safeguard the places they visit, businesses they patronize, schools they attend, and places they worship.

Throughout McQueen’s term, law enforcement roles and perspectives shifted to better meet the needs of vulnerable populations. In 2014, semi-annual statewide crisis intervention training was added to help individuals experiencing life challenges, including mental and emotional disturbances. Implicit bias trainers were certified in 2017, and the concepts were then integrated into multiple aspects of recruit training.

In 2018, DSP launched training for all personnel on recognizing and intervening in human trafficking, naming a statewide coordinator for such investigations. Further in 2019, DSP established a pilot program in partnership with the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to coordinate service for those impacted by substance abuse and mental health.

McQueen’s administration revised multiple policies and procedures. These reflected recommendations of the President’s Task Force 21st Century Policing Report, including completely rewriting the agency’s policy on response to resistance.

Under his leadership, troopers’ training and equipment exponentially improved service to the state’s emergency medical needs. In 2013, medical responder training was implemented with annual recertification. In 2019, every patrol trooper began carrying Naloxone, and each was issued a trauma kit. Three much-safer Bell 429 twin-engine helicopters were put into service for medical evacuations and law enforcement operations.

The agency’s growth required tight compliance with established national standards. DSP has been nationally reaccredited nine times by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, twice during McQueen’s tenure, including Accreditation with Excellence in 2016. From 2017 to 2019 DSP earned specialized accreditation and awards from the Airborne Public Safety Association for law enforcement and search and rescue, the National Governor’s Security Association, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

His focus was not solely external. Many of his decisions improved staffing, leadership, employee safety and the workplace environment, according to the press release.

McQueen prioritized the agency’s most important resource: its employees and their leadership training. During his watch, DSP hired 263 recruit troopers and 229 civilian employees, and promoted 120 troopers and 91 civilians to supervisory positions. Endorsing the internal Leadership Development Program, he sponsored nine classes of 217 sworn graduates, as well as all five civilian classes of 107 graduates.

Adding to each employee’s readiness to serve, scenario-based de-escalation training and active-shooter refresher training were mandated in 2018. Tourniquets were added to the trooper duty belt, along with several other changes to make the patrol uniform more functional. Other tools were also upgraded to help troopers better protect the public. McQueen established a full-time contingent of SORT (Special Operations Response Team) in 2018 to enhance timely responses to armed and high-risk emergencies and acquired the necessary vehicles for protection from gunfire.

Physical plant construction and renovations improved employee working conditions and safety. These included building two patrol troops and a Mounted Patrol Unit stable, adding electronic security access, cameras, a special unit annex, perimeter fencing at multiple sites, LED lighting, and HVAC upgrades, including replacing the 20-year-old system at the Firearms Training Unit facility.

McQueen’s 32-year-police career has included many facets of the agency’s rich history. "What is likely to be remembered most is his genuine concern for those he served and those with whom he worked," the press release said.

Delaware State Troopers Association President Lt. Thomas Brackin described McQueen’s diplomacy.

“One of his true strengths as a leader is his ability to never take our differences personally and always try to see the other perspective,” Brackin said.

During the agency’s most trying times, Brackin said he saw McQueen’s heart for those under his command. He specifically mentioned the agency’s mourning of the murder of Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard and the deaths of Master Cpl. Richard E. Long Jr., Sgt. Rodney H. Bond Jr. and Master Cpl. William F. Matt.

“I saw the anguish and honest emotion he felt for these heroes each and every time we attended a viewing, funeral, and memorial service,” Brackin said. “While devastated personally by their loss, Col. McQueen was able to help these troopers’ family members and his state police family, leading us all through those times with compassion and dignity.”

Acting Director of the DSP Public Information Office Sgt. Darren Lester praised the colonel for exemplifying the agency’s core values: “Col. McQueen is an extremely humble man who has always endeavored to do what is right and has remained virtuous in his career…"

As superintendent, McQueen served on numerous boards and committees, including several executive councils. Their missions ranged from youth protection, criminal justice reform, preventing violence including domestic violence, and advisory boards for Delaware Tech Community College and Wilmington University.

McQueen holds a bachelor of science degree in behavioral science from Wilmington University and earned his master of science degree in social work from Delaware State University. He is a graduate of the 209th session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy, the FBI National Executive Institute, and the Anti-Defamation League Counterterrorism Training.

"Col. McQueen’s love of country, state, and the people he serves will remain constant as he enters his next level of leadership," the press release said.

Lt. Col. Zebley said, “The men and women of the DSP wish Col. McQueen continued success in his new role in public service.”