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Special Report: Focus on Force

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Posted at 7:20 PM, Feb 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-29 20:20:07-05

In the wake of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, Chicago, and Baltimore the use of force by police officers has come into question.  KMTV and Scripps investigate whether a perceived increase in police use of force is really accurate.

Use of force has been a controversial topic for a while in the U.S. because of videos that can show the harsh realities of what happens on our streets.

Over the past several months our Scripps investigative team of reporters dug into use of force records from police agencies across the country.  We discovered more than half of the agencies show use of force actually going down, and just a quarter with use of force on the rise.

With multiple controversial incidents nationally some say it's a small number compared to the number of police contacts each day.

"Right now of course our biggest mission is trying to make sure that we have public confidence and public trust in what the men and women do on the streets every single day,” said Richard Beary, the President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Omaha Police Department says there's one use of force incident for every 900 radio calls.  There were 227,000 calls for OPD last year.  KMTV gathered the totals from OPD and compared them over the past 5 years.

Here are the results:

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Firearm Discharged 62 53 60 55 39 44
Deadly Force Death 5 0 1 3 2 3
Taser/ECD 78 48 60 62 54 26*
Chemical Agents 24 29 20 19 20 8*
Physical Force (Bodily) 366 341 284 314 287 253
Total Use of Force 545 489 437 471 425 220*

*=(through 6/2015)

OPD Deputy Chief Greg Gonzalez says the downward trends are attributed to adding about 100 officers over the last year and a half.

"First and foremost training is very important for our officers to have mandatory training throughout the year, and we know over the course of the last 5 years our numbers are trending down,” Deputy Chief Gonzalez explained. “We know we've had some positive results in the use of force because we have more officers on the street.  We know a lot of that is attributed to our relationship with the community.”

For the first time ever the OPD Policy and Procedures Manual is being overhauled and is online right now for the public to view.

Deputy Chief Gonzalez says OPD Chief Todd Schmaderer wants to be transparent, build public trust, and help answer any questions residents have about what procedures officers are expected to follow.

To view the manual go to: http://opd.ci.omaha.ne.us/images/OmahaPoliceDepartmentPoliciesandProceduresManual08-12-2014.pdf