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SCDPS fleet supervisor takes top honor while completing management program

Wed, 05/22/2024

Captain Colbert

For most people, snagging a top honor for finding ways to save the state’s largest law enforcement agency hundreds of thousands of dollars a year is something to gloat about. But SC Department of Public Safety Captain Gabriel Colbert, who did just that, remains modest.

“My whole goal is to try and do this in a way that helps support our troopers and officers and makes their jobs easier,” said Colbert, who manages the fleet of vehicles for all three of the Department of Public Safety’s law enforcement divisions. “The better we do what we do, the less problems they have, the less time they have to come off the road, and the more time they’re available to do their jobs.”

Colbert is one of only 54 public sector employees statewide, including another SCDPS employee, Major Patrick McLean, who recently completed the Certified Public Managers Program, a rigorous 18-month course that encourages innovative management practices by giving students on-the-job application of learning and experience in solving real problems for their respective agencies or municipalities.

Participants are nominated by their agencies for the course, which includes in-person classes a couple of times a month, coursework, exams, and projects. The program culminates with a capstone project, where students are tasked with applying the coursework to identify, apply and analyze an efficiency at their agency. Colbert’s capstone project focused on defining vehicle classes within the DPS fleet to improve operational efficiency.

“Every (DPS) car you see, there’s a cost to buy it, build it, and maintain it,” he said. “How can we streamline vehicle purchases and standardize how we outfit them? And can doing so reduce the cost or increase operational efficiency?”

Colbert’s work on the project earned him not only his certification, but the prestigious Askew Award. Named after a longtime leader in the CPM Program and the first CPM graduate in 1983, the Askew Award recognizes projects that are innovative in approach; demonstrate an improvement in quality within the work unit as a result of the project; and show cost savings as a result of the project’s implementation. Colbert was the statewide winner for South Carolina for the class of 2024, and spoke at the group’s graduation on May 16.

“Having the opportunity to do this and be supported by my leadership is huge,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to not only receive this award, but be among the few selected to participate in this program.” 

For Colbert, he explains the need to streamline fleet processes was two-fold: Providing troopers and officers with modern vehicles and equipment that were safe, and also being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. After collecting internal agency data about the fleet inventory, Colbert created a classification for the different types of vehicles, and the varying types of equipment needed to outfit each. From there, he looked at the data and found ways to increase savings in both time and money while also making better use of employees’ time.

One example listed in his project is taking light bars off the tops of patrol cars and instead installing lights inside the cars. That would save an estimated $680,000 annually on fuel alone, when factoring in wind resistance of the light bars and travel time to and from the fleet shop in Columbia.  

“If I can give you a car and you can keep that car for longer, and it costs less to make, build, and run — that’s a big deal,” he said. “And for an agency our size, that adds up to a lot of money.”

Colbert pitched his proposal to his superiors, including Director Woods, who responded with overwhelming approval.

“Captain Colbert has demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to our mission, and we are fortunate to have visionaries like him and Major McLean at DPS,” said SCDPS Director Robert G. Woods, IV, who graduated from the CPM Program in 2010. “To be nominated for and participate in this program is itself a tremendous honor, but to receive the recognition of an Askew Award speaks volumes about Captain Colbert’s vision and potential. His ability to think outside the box while challenging norms and traditions makes him a rising star at the Department of Public Safety.”

For Colbert, the best part of winning the award was not the recognition, but knowing that this work will have a positive impact on DPS troopers and officers, residents and visitors in South Carolina.

“It’s very satisfying to be in a position where I have the ability to influence not a division, not a troop, not a post — but the entire agency,” he said. “Every person that drives in the state of South Carolina for the next few years is going to see the benefit of this project.”

Captain Colbert receives CPM award Captain Colbert and Fleet Services group