OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Just days after a series of protests stemming from the officer-involved shooting of Kenneth Jones last week, the Omaha City Council, quietly, with little protest, passed a new police contract for the years 2021-2026.
Ben Gray, along with the rest of the council voted for the five-year contract, which gives police officers a pay raise every year, totaling 14.5 percent through 2026.
The contract also makes it easier to file a police misconduct complaint, and easier for the citizen complaint review board to review the complaint.
It also extends the probationary period for officers, giving Chief Schmaderer more time to make a decision on new officers. Any officers fired during their probationary period cannot appeal the decision through arbitration.
“They will have an additional year to evaluate the police officers and to potentially get some of the bad officers off the force,” said Gray.
The vote certainly won’t make everybody happy. Two weeks ago, a series of opponents told the council they want to see a more transparent arbitration process.
But it was seemingly unanimous that legally, that couldn’t be done.
“The things that they want, we can’t get out of this contract,” said city council-member Aimee Melton.
“If you want to mandate transparency in the arbitration process, or change the arbitration process in a way that still respects the due process rights afford to police, that takes state law,” said city council-member Chris Jerram.
Others like council member Vinny Palermo said police officers are humans and make mistakes, but that shouldn’t stop the contract from going through.
“If you sit here and don’t back public safety, shame on you because this is what you have to have in the city of Omaha. You have to support the fire department, you have to support the police department,” said Palermo.
On Tuesday morning three council members encouraged their colleagues to vote in favor of the contract.
"Omaha’s Police are a model for the rest of the country. We led the way on body cameras, anti-bias training, and other initiatives now being pursued by other law enforcement around the United States. By placing a focus on the community, our police department has not only reduced crime rates significantly, but has begun to rebuild trust with those they serve – Omaha’s citizens," read the statement signed by council members Rich Pahls, Aimee Melton and Brinker Harding.
Omaha Police Officers Association President Tony Conner, who was battling COVID-19 as of last Friday, and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert introduced details of the new contract in October, saying it would improve accountability measures.
"We listened. We learned," Stothert said. "We try to improve all the time. I know a lot of concern was that people wanted more transparency and more accountability and I think this contract does provide that."
Following summer protests and the recent officer-involved shooting death of Kenneth Jones, the Omaha Police Department has faced increasing scrutiny from demonstrators and members of the community.
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