The Kansas governor chose a high-ranking U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official Friday to head the state highway patrol, replacing a retiring superintendent who is facing federal lawsuits over the agency’s policing and allegations that he sexually harassed female employees.
Gov. Laura Kelly’s appointment of Erik Smith came on retiring Superintendent and Col. Herman Jones’ last day. Until Smith can take over as superintendent July 7, patrol Lt. Col. Jason DeVore, who also was named as a defendant in the sexual harassment lawsuit, pursued by five patrol employees.
Smith has strong ties to Kansas. He is a native of the small central Kansas town of Ellsworth, holds a criminal justice degree from Friends University in Wichita, and served nine years with the Sedgwick County sheriff’s office, also in Wichita, before joining the DEA. He has been chief of the DEA’s Inspection Division since 2021.
Critics contend that the patrol targets motorists coming from other states where marijuana is legal. Kansas is among the few states with no legalized form of marijuana.
Meanwhile, a trial is scheduled in September in the sexual harassment lawsuit against Jones, DeVore and the state, alleging that the female employees faced a hostile work environment.