OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer joined other officials to announce a new Restorative Justice diversion program that allows minor offenses directed at officers to be dropped.
Stothert described it as a misdemeanor diversion program “created through a partnership between the city prosecutor, the Omaha Police Department and the Human Rights and Relations Department.”
Stothert said the program provides second chances for low-level offenders arrested for misdemeanors like resisting arrest, obstruction and disorderly conduct.
The crux of the program is a four-hour class that gives offenders and officers the opportunity to talk about what led to the arrest and what happened during the arrest in a more neutral environment.
“They’re meeting them at a lot better place in life than they were when they are arrested," said Human Rights and Relations Assistant Director Gerald Kuhn. "So the officers have a crucial rule in the restorative justice process in both learning and teaching.”
While citizens will have the opportunity to have talk with an officer, taking part in the program is optional for the officer who actually did the arresting. Chief Schmaderer says he will encourage officers to take part as they are one of the parties making referrals to the program.
“The more and more voluntary submissions that we get from the Omaha Police Department and the officers actually in the field, the better that this program will be.”
Schmaderer described restorative justice as a progressive concept and said that he is excited about it.
He said restorative justice as a concept “views crime as more than breaking the law.” He said it will allow the police and the community to build and maintain positive relationships. He said that he believes it will help improve police-community relations.
Participants will also need to complete 12 hours of community service and have no other criminal arrests for a six month period. If these requirements are met, the charges will be dropped and the record sealed.
Deputy Chief Michele Bang said Omaha is "a trauma-informed city." She also said that it helps keep people out of jail. Bang was part of a restorative justice program following protests this past summer and said that it made sense to continue the program.
She said it can improve understanding of the law among citizens and improve relationships with police officers. According to Bang, it allows officers to see these people when they are not at their worst and see these low-level offenders in a more positive situation.
Kuhn praised the mayor's efforts to introduce restorative justice to the community. He said that the program is an opportunity to bring the community and police together.
Participants will receive a pass or fail recommendation at the end of the six month program and the city prosecutor's office will accept or deny the recommendation.
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