Dozens apply for Omaha Mayor’s police oversight panel as critic rips plan

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

As dozens of Omahans line-up for a slot on Mayor Jean Stothert’s new police oversight board the pros and cons continue to roll in with one key critic gearing up to announce it’s own blueprint for reform.

While the state’s largest newspaper calls the Citizen Complaint Review Board “a positive step”—with at least one shortcoming—ACLU Nebraska argues the five-person panel is a waste of tax dollars and will “fail to provide” true accountability.

ACLU Legal Director Amy Miller tells Nebraska Watchdog the organization will soon be releasing a “four part plan” for real change.

For now Miller is keeping any details quiet but clearly objects to “a board managed by the Mayor.”

And in a letter to the Omaha World-Herald, Miller wrote citizens must demand more. “Mayor Jean Stothert, much like the great wizard, hopes that no one will look behind the curtain.”

The ACLU recently filed a federal lawsuit against Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and 32 of his officers accusing police of excessive force and illegal search and seizure in a highly publicized caught on camera case.

Stothert insists the CCRB will provide an “independent” review of complaints against police. Schmaderer says it provides “a layer of accountability and transparency” to his department’s internal investigations.

Created by an executive order without the city council’s OK the board will be comprised of one citizen from each of the city’s four police precincts plus one at-large member.

It will issue findings and nonbinding recommendations to the mayor and police chief.

Board members are:

  • Volunteers appointed by the mayor.
  • Required to sign a Confidentiality Agreement—in effect sworn to secrecy.
  • Only allowed to review Omaha Police Department internal investigations, unable to launch their own investigations.
  • Without subpoena power. According to Stothert, granting subpoena power would be prohibited by law.

In a recent editorial the World-Herald applauded Stothert’s plan and what it called “improving” relations between police and the public. However the paper did question the board’s secrecy provision.

“The panel will work in confidence, which is unfortunate,” said the paper. “If the idea is to grow trust, it makes sense to let the public know what this group finds.”

According to the mayor’s office as of last week 130 people had applied for the board. The deadline to apply is Feb. 24.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org and listen to Joe every Monday morning at 7:40 on KFAB radio in Omaha.

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The post Dozens apply for Omaha Mayor’s police oversight panel as critic rips plan appeared first on Watchdog.org.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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