Police Chief Calls Sheriff's Ad in Omaha's Mayoral Race "Reckless"

Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-31 18:33:38-04

A new ad in the Omaha mayoral race is setting off a firestorm in the law enforcement community. 

A third party commercial featuring Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning is drawing harsh criticism from Omaha’s chief of police. 

In the commercial, which started airing Thursday, Dunning says violent crime, rapes, and emergency response times are up under Mayor Jean Stothert’s leadership. 

"I feel like Jean Stothert puts politics over public safety, and it's making Omaha a more dangerous place to live," Dunning said in the ad. 

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer says Dunning's comments are unprofessional. 

"They crossed professional boundaries,” Schmaderer said. “And when you cross professional boundaries in that manner it causes tension and it causes strife between two agencies. To call the city dangerous just to interject yourself into a mayoral race in my opinion was very reckless." 

Dunning was speaking for a non-partisan group called A Better Omaha, the PAC behind the ad. The group says it’s all in the name of public safety. 

"It’s our goal to bring some of these issues to light," said spokeswoman Gina Pappas. 

The non-profit's board is comprised of members of the fire union, a the group that already has a rocky relationship with Mayor Stothert over pensions. 

Pappas says that wasn’t the reason for the commercial. 

"Being on the lines and seeing that city has continued to annex neighborhoods and perhaps not appropriately keep up the pace of staffing in terms of emergency services that's what we see and that's really what inspired the ad," she said. 

Sheriff Dunning says the ad wasn't meant to be critical of the police department, but rather the mayor. 

Stothert says she disagrees. 

"Our record on public safety is very clear,” Stothert told 3 News Now on Thursday night. “And we have worked with our community groups. It is an insult to the Omaha Police Department and all of our community partners. And all of the great work they've done at reducing crime. And I think this commercial is a desperate attempt to distort what the facts are. I was stunned by the ad." 


A Better Omaha says they aren't endorsing a candidate. Heath Mello’s campaign gave 3 News Now a statement saying they had no idea the ad was running, but they aren't surprised the Sheriff decided to independently speak out.