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South Omaha advocates & leaders unhappy with Chief Schmaderer's statement on PACE

Posted at 6:30 PM, Dec 23, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Police Athletics for Community Engagement program was started by Latino Police Officers and many of those men have run parts of the organization.

Now some South Omaha community leaders and activists believe their community, and specifically PACE, is being unfairly targeted.

Hours after the FBI searched homes of multiple men connected or directly tied to PACE, including two current Omaha Police Officers and City Councilmember Vinny Palermo, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer came out and said in a statement “I am concerned that PACE may have been used for criminal activity.”

“I was shocked and dismayed that the chief of police would be quoted as making this accusation not just against one individual, several individuals, but the entire PACE organization,” said Latino community advocate, Ben Salazar.

Salazar believes a ‘no comment’ would have sufficed, as no charges have been filed and the investigation is ongoing.

“They should have backed off and say there is a presumption of innocence here. We’re not going to say anything accusatory until the findings are in,” said Salazar.

Multiple prominent folks in South Omaha who spoke up said if there was any individual wrongdoing, those people should be prosecuted. But they worry the chief’s words hurt the whole organization.

“If there could be a modern hanging and I don’t mean disrespect to anybody but it’s a modern-day smear,” said Mark Martinez, former US Marshal for the District of Nebraska and a retired OPD officer.

Schmaderer said he stands by his statement, according to a public information officer at OPD. He said it’s very clear a federal investigation is ongoing related to PACE and that he’s historically spoken up on issues of public concern and when officers are put on administrative leave.

It’s important to note two officers, Johnny Palermo and Daniel Torres, were put on leave related to this investigation.

Mayor Jean Stothert also pulled PACE funding this week until an investigation is complete. That’s at least $360,000 that was supposed to come to PACE next year.

“But the real victims are the kids. I can only imagine how many services that $360,600 is going to reduce,” said Salazar.

NRD Board Member Larry Bradley was hopeful that a possible audit of PACE’s program vindicates the organization.

“There may be an audit right now on PACE and ultimately that may be a good thing because that perhaps could validate them,” said Bradley.

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