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Computer issues lead to delays in release of protesters

Posted at 4:16 PM, Jul 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-26 20:04:07-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A Saturday evening protest that started in Midtown in response to the murder of James Scurlock and unrest in Portland led to the arrest of 75 to 100 protesters.

According to our partners at the Omaha World-Herald, the Douglas County Corrections Center says it has been experiencing computer issues, causing employees to use a different procedure than usual to release protesters out on bail. Several people have also told KMTV 3 News Now that they have also been told computer issues are causing delays in the release of people who have posted bail.

Various people have called and messaged KMTV on Sunday expressing concern with the length of time it’s taking for protesters to be released.

One caller, Teri, said she has not heard from her daughter since a short phone call around 4:50 a.m.

Teri told KMTV that the Nebraska Left Coalition is working to re-apply her bail and hopes for her daughter’s release soon.

A father messaged KMTV on Sunday and said he posted bail for her daughter at 4:50 a.m. and she is still being held.

In a phone call, his daughter mentioned that dozens of women are being held in a holding cell that has a maximum capacity of 14. She also told her father that they haven’t been given water or food and added that they don’t have air conditioning.

Another woman who messaged KMTV said she spoke to an inmate who said 30 to 50 people without masks were being held in a cell, also with a maximum capacity of 14.

She told us that over the course of 15 hours, they were only given breakfast and also said inmates weren't given water or air conditioning.

A spokesperson for Omaha Police said the protest began near Turner Boulevard and Farnam around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, with protesters starting to walk in traffic lanes around 8:45 p.m.

Around that time, OPD made announcements asking the protesters to clear the streets, which eventually led to numerous arrests, mostly for obstructing traffic and failure to disperse.

Sunday evening, a public information officer with Douglas County issued the following statement:

Routine computer system maintenance followed by an unplanned outage caused delays in releasing incarcerated individuals at Douglas County Department of Corrections Sunday morning.

During the overnight shift Sunday morning, there were 109 individuals booked from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., with approximately 75 percent of them being arrested after a protest near 29th and Farnam Streets.

“It’s a multi-step process to get that many individuals booked into jail and to get them released. It’s typically a single file line,” said Mike Myers, director of Douglas County Department of Corrections. “Even when everything is running properly, booking that many individuals at the same time creates a bottleneck situation.”

Certain steps of the booking and release process had to stop at 3:30 a.m., which is the scheduled time for the weekly routine maintenance of the computer systems at Corrections, Myers said.

After systems were updated, certain functions failed to come back online, delaying the process again.

“We implemented a paper process and those individuals who posted bond were released,” Myers said. “As of 4:30 p.m. Sunday, approximately 50 people had been released using the paper process.”

According to Douglas Omaha Technology Commission (DOTComm), the outage also affected systems used by the Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Treasurer’s Office.

DOTComm reported all systems had been restored as of 4:43 p.m. Sunday.

“It is truly horrible timing that we had an IT problem during an unexpectedly busy time,” Myers said.

In the below video, Morgann Freeman discusses the delay in releases.

See video from Problac, who organized the protest, below.