First Lady Of The Nebraska State Patrol

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By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman

Nebraska State Patrol Capt. Brenda Konfrst knew as a young adult what she wanted to do with her life.

“I got to do a four-hour ride-along with a state trooper,” Konfrst said. “To this day, I cannot remember that trooper’s name, but I had a complete blast. It was something I was interested in to begin with, but that made me say ‘that’s what I want to be.’ ”

Konfrst, the daughter of Glenwood residents Mel and Joyce Konfrst, was recently named the first female commander of a unit for the Nebraska State Patrol - Troop A, serving Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy, Washington and two-thirds of Cass Counties, the most populated region  in the state. She lives in Blair, Neb., with her husband and two children. She and her family chose to live in a small town partly because Brenda grew up in Glenwood.

“You know, it was nice growing up in a small town,” Konfrst said. “That’s the kind of atmosphere we wanted our kids to grow up in. We didn’t want our kids to get lost in a big school system. We’re part of that community – I’m on the Blair safety committee, we volunteer at school, and we volunteer at church.”

Konfrst graduated from Glenwood High School in 1986 and planned to go into law enforcement, but did not specifically study law enforcement in college.

“I talked to the people at UNO (University of Nebraska - Omaha), where they have a program, and they told me the program is basically psychology and sociology put together,” Konfrst said. “When I was offered a softball scholarship at Creighton, I went there.”
She applied for the Nebraska State Patrol during her senior year at Creighton, where she majored in both psychology and sociology.

“I missed the Iowa State Patrol (application process) by three days,” Konfrst laughed.
The process of becoming a state trooper takes about six months. Konfrst went to training camp for 16 weeks, along with six other women and several hundred men. She was hired by Troop A  Sept. 3, 1990.

“At that point in time, you didn’t know where you were going until the end of camp,” Konfrst said. “You picked out your top three openings, for me it was Omaha, then South Sioux City, then Nebraska City.” There were probably 60 openings across the state. Omaha had openings, and I was very lucky to get my first choice.”

Konfrst was happy to be located near her family. Following her probationary period of six months, she was stationed on the roads for about three years.  She then went into the drug enforcement division.

“That was interesting. You got to do stuff that the normal law-abiding person doesn’t do,” Konfrst said. “For instance, buy drugs. People got caught with large amounts of drugs. It was satisfactory because you got drugs off the streets, and you clean up the streets. It was a good feeling to know that you were making the streets safer.”

In 1996 she was the first woman to join the Nebraska State Patrol’s SWAT team, where she spent more than seven years as a sniper.

“You learn different things with that team,” Konfrst said. “You learn how to rappel. You shot weapons all the time,” Konfrst said. “That’s actually a perishable skill, and back then, I could really shoot. I got to ride in a Blackhawk helicopter.”
It was while on this team she was promoted to sergeant and she also experienced one of her most memorable moments.

“In 1999, they called all the SWAT teams to the Indian reservation north of White Clay (Nebraska),” Konfrst said. “They had heard there was going to be a protest, and for whatever reason, the state patrol didn’t know how smooth it was going to be.”

According to the documentary film “Battle for White Clay,” the protest revolved around a pair of unsolved murders of Lakota men. The murders provoked members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Nebraskans for Peace to demand Nebraska revoke the liquor licenses of White Clay’s stores and increase law enforcement in the area. The protest garnered national media attention.

Another important moment for Konfrst was meeting President George W. Bush.

“I got to have my picture taken with him,” Konfrst said. “When presidents come into town, they allow each agency to have one person take a picture with them in law enforcement. Generally, it goes to the Colonel and Lt. Colonel, and sometimes they have already had their picture taken. They happened to be coming through the Troop A area, so I was the lucky one who was chosen. I remember being so nervous to go shake his hand and talk to him. I remember not a whole lot came out of my mouth because I was so nervous.”

Konfrst was the “first” woman on the state patrol SWAT team and is now the commander, but she doesn’t see that as an achievement.

“You know I can tell you that I’m technically the first female troop area commander, however, there’s been a lot of females before me,” Konfrst said. “To some people it’s a big deal that I’m a woman. I’m just doing my job. I like what I’m doing. I have a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten if I was somewhere else.”

The job hasn’t been all positive, but Konfrst keeps a positive outlook.

“One of the worst things is going to someone’s house and telling someone their loved one has passed away,” Konfrst said. “The other part that we really don’t like is anything having to do with a child, such as an abuse case.”

Not all incidents have a sad ending though.

“I arrested a drunk driver in 1993,” Konfrst said. “He was really drunk … and I arrested him for driving while intoxicated. Every year since then, on that day, I get a call from him, because he’s been sober ever since. He calls and he thanks me, and that’s kind of a cool thing.”

As captain, keeping a positive image for the state patrol is an important part of her job.

“The image has been positive for a while, and I don’t anticipate any changes,” Konfrst said. “We have troopers who volunteer for Boy Scouts and coach kids sports. Helping others is ingrained in many of them.

“We’re trying to get kids and adults to see the State Patrol in a positive light,” Konfrst said. “The big thing we’ve been doing is the T-shirt shooter. The troopers go to events like high school football games and shoot T-shirts into the crowd. Troop A has done it for about three years, and now it’s going statewide.”

Konfrst has enjoyed most aspects of her job.

“It’s been a fun career,” Konfrst said. “I like what I do, and I’ve been very lucky.”