Bill seeks to strengthen Omaha & Lincoln's police oversight board

Posted at 8:14 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 21:14:52-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — A bill in the legislature from State Sen. Terrell McKinney would give the citizen review boards, which oversee police in both Omaha and Lincoln, more power and make their process transparent.

The board in Omaha gives an independent review of police misconduct, confidentially.

McKinney says his community has a distrust of the current process that examines police misconduct and complaints.

Supporters of the bill say the current process doesn't work well enough.

“They meet in secret, there’s no public body, they don’t issue reports. The board itself has limited if any independent access to any sort of records,” says Spike Eickholt, with the ACLU of Nebraska

The bill would give the board a number of tasks, including investigating public complaints, any form of police misconduct and all officer-involved shootings.

It would have the power to ask for documents and subpoena people for interviews. They would then make recommendations to city leadership.

Plus, to add transparency, all reports and every official meeting would be public.

“This would help reduce public concern about high profile incidents as well increasing the public’s understanding,” says McKinney.

Opposing the bill was Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, who worries about unintended consequences.

“Let’s not make things worse in pursuit of making things better," he said.

Schmaderer says oversight of police needs to take place, and if possible, for it to be transparent.

He says he’s fired at least 40 officers in his eight and a half years as chief.

He points to experts in the field, who say the chief, and only the chief, should have discipline power over officers.

“Oftentimes you’re going to find the chief to be more disciplined. There’s a reason for that, they understand the profession and they have high standards” says Schmaderer.

Jim Macguire with the Omaha Police Union says officers already have body and vehicle cameras and an internal affairs unit to monitor officers.

He says if an officer does something wrong, they’ll be disciplined.

“So when we talk about police oversight, it’s already here.”