Omaha City Council president calls to shift money from the Omaha Police Department

Posted at 10:35 PM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 00:56:48-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Omaha City Council President Chris Jerram is making amendments to the 2021 city budget, and Mayor Jean Stothert says those changes are dead if it hits her desk.

Jerram is proposing to shift over 1%, or about $2 million, of the Omaha Police Departments budget to other resources.

Mayor Stothert responded to this, reiterating that she will not cut any money from OPD's $161.3 million budget. She went even further, adding she would veto this if the city council passes Jerram's amendment

"If you are trying to maintain public safety as your number one responsibility, then saying 62% or 63% of the entire general fund that goes to public safety is money worth spent," Stothert said.

The Omaha Police Department makes up about 37% of the overall budget, with an additional 25% going to the Omaha Fire Department, according to Stothert.

Jerram is proposing to pull about $2 million from OPD and place it into job and health services. But Stothert said his amendment was too vague, adding it would be irresponsible to spend taxpayer money without a set plan.

"He had $500,000 going towards Heartland Workforce Solution, but another $1.5 million going to additional city, community investments," Stothert said. "It was really unspecified where that $1.5 million would go."

Jerram's amendment states most of the money would go into mental health services.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer says this amendment would be a reduction of about 20 personnel, possibly even forcing the city to close the fifth precinct.

"Cities across the country... when they take money from the police department, the first thing that happens is crime goes up." Schmaderer said. "That would be the case pretty much anywhere because that's the formula."

Stothert and Schmaderer added that crime in Omaha has mainly gone down in the last 8 years, something they say has allowed them to shift focus onto crime prevention.

"There is a progression here and to interrupt that progression and to take money away that addresses intervention, prevention and immediate needs of a community and put it towards long term solution... you are going to see increases in crime," Schmaderer said.

Stothert says Jerram's amendment is backwards, stating it goes against past comments that he has made about wanting more police officers.

"To cut the police department, right now at this time, would really effect all the citizens of Omaha and public safety at the same time," Stothert said.

Stothert mentioned some protester calls to defund the police and add that money to public schools. She says these are two separate funds, adding 22% of property taxes goes to the city and 63% goes towards public schools.

KMTV did reach out to Councilman Jerram, and are waiting to hear back.