Hugh McQuaid File Photo
State Police Col. Danny Stebbins (Hugh McQuaid File Photo)

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday credited outgoing State Police Col. Danny Stebbins with guiding the agency through the “unimaginable” and difficult period following the Sandy Hook shooting.

At a press conference after a state Bond Commission meeting, Malloy said Stebbins informed him Thursday of his intention to retire at the end of June. The governor said he had “tremendous respect” for Stebbins, who has led the State Police since Malloy appointed him in January 2011.

Malloy said he “cared deeply about” Stebbins who oversaw the agency through the response and investigation of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

“Danny and I shared what I think he would say was one of the worst days in his life, certainly one of the worst days in my life and many other people in Connecticut and I will forever respect him for not only his response on that day but his response to the men and women of his department and other departments throughout the state,” he said. 

But Stebbins has been a divisive figure within his agency and has clashed with the leadership of the Connecticut State Police Union, especially regarding a policy to consolidate the agency’s dispatch facilities. The union vehemently opposed the plan, voicing safety concerns. It was eventually joined by lawmakers in districts where the consolidations were rolled out.

The plan was drafted and partially implemented under the leadership of Stebbins and former Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Reuben Bradford. But Bradford stepped out of his post in February and his successor, Commissioner Dora Schriro, halted the rollout of the consolidation plan and reversed aspects of it.

The consolidation effort, in addition to a labor dispute early in Malloy’s tenure, soured the governor’s relationship with the Connecticut State Police Union, which had endorsed him in the last gubernatorial election.

In response to a reporters’ question Friday, Malloy said he did not seek Stebbins’ retirement, but was not “shocked” by it either. He said he also did not expect the colonel’s departure to earn him the endorsement of the state police union in his re-election efforts this year.

“I want the support of anyone who wants to support me, let’s be honest. I believe that union has made it clear that it intends to stay neutral,” he said. “I believe [Stebbins] has done a great job. It’s not unusual to modify plans from time to time and that’s what took place.”