OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) – Next year Nebraskans will find a list of some troubled officers online.
Bill 51 was signed by Governor Pete Ricketts this spring. It contains several pieces of police reform, including requesting a public list of officers who have been decertified, have serious misconduct on their files, or have been found guilty of a Class I crime or administrative offense.
If 3 News Now investigators were to request records of wrongdoing from the Omaha Police Department today, they would refuse to do so under the Exceptions in the Public Records Act. This gives them a chance to say no, but their contract with the police union forbids it unless the officer allows it or an appeal is made beyond the human resources department.
“(Police misconduct) shouldn’t be kept secret,” said Omaha State Sen. Terrell McKinney, who tabled a bill calling for the list to be added to LB 51. “There were some concerns at first, but you know doctors report” to the state. It’s public, you can see it. So there is no reason for law enforcement agencies not to make these things public too. “
The serious misconduct that needs to be listed are actions that “are rationally related to the fitness or performance of the person”. This includes, in particular, the production of evidence, repeated excessive violence, bribery, fraud, perjury and sexual assault.
Until recently, police authorities could not, but were not required to, report serious misconduct to a government agency.
“Until the 51st effective date, there was no compulsory serious misconduct report to a government agency like us unless the individual left the job or a criminal complaint was filed,” said Brenda Urbanek, director of the Law Enforcement Training Center in Nebraska. “Well, the information hadn’t been gathered yet.”
The Advisory Board for Police Standards decides whether or a possible incident of police misconduct should be included. Urbanek said she expected few changes in how complaints were handled. She said she did not know whether mandatory serious misconduct reporting would result in more complaints being handled.
The list includes the officer’s name, rank, department, reason why he is on the list, discipline, and a certificate signed by the chief of police or sheriff confirming its accuracy.
“One of the things you might remember after … George Floyd, the public somehow found out after the fact that (Derek Chauvin) had been through about eighteen different types of wrongdoing reports during his legal career.” Police officers, “said ACLU of Nebraska lobbyist Spike Eickholt.” And I think the LB 51 speaks up on that issue. “
The list will include incidents after January 1 of this year and must be online before July 1, 2022. Before the end of the year, the Nebraska Crime Commission will publish a list of decertified officers by January 1 of this year. This list is currently only available through a public record request. The database will be released sometime in the first half of 2022.
“I hope they do their job and get it online as soon as possible and not drag it out,” McKinney said.
State Sen. Justin Wayne introduced a bill that would have added a similar database.
“When the integrity of a police officer is compromised, it compromises the entire criminal justice system and our general ability to bring justice,” he said.
McKinney said the list will be beneficial to both law enforcement agencies hiring new officers and the general public.
“I think it’s important that … when an officer violates something or has been decertified that other departments across the state are aware,” he said, “so that they can’t just jump off and go somewhere else and never be held accountable to be pulled.”
“It is important for the public to know who the good and bad officials in the community are in order to establish a level of transparency and accountability,” said McKinney.
3 News Now also invited Tony Conner of the Omaha Police Officers Association to comment on this story, but he was not immediately available for comment.
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