Report: Omaha Police discourage citizen complaints

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

Want to file an on-line complaint accusing an Omaha police officer of bad things?

Well the good news is you can do it in English or Spanish.

The bad news, according to a new report from the Nebraska ACLU, is you’re going to be intimidated—in effect pushed not to complain.

The ACLU, which examined 31 of the largest police departments in the state, says only eight have an on-line complaint process.

Of those eight the Lincoln Police Department is considered the most user-friendly—easy to access and no bullying.

Meanwhile, the Omaha Police Department is accused of all but strong-arming people into shutting up.

The ACLU notes that Omaha “includes an intimidating provision about filing a false report”—OPD’s website lets you know that filing a false report could result in criminal charges.

In addition the ACLU says unlike Lincoln, where citizen complaints can be filed anonymously, OPD requires the griper to “appear in person” to be interviewed by the departments’s Internal Affairs unit.

Two other departments, the Nebraska State Patrol and Bellevue Police Department, were also chastised by the ACLU which labeled their websites “sparse and uninformative” when it comes to citizen complaints.

Nebraska Watchdog has contacted OPD for comment but has not heard anything yet.

Earlier this year Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert created, without the city council’s OK, a five member Citizen Complaint Review Board, which is able to issue findings and nonbinding recommendations to the mayor and police chief.

“In the overwhelming majority of circumstances, our police officers use good judgment,” said Stothert. “When a citizen believes there has been misconduct, this is an opportunity for further review.”

Several north Omaha activists argue because the board is appointed by the mayor it is anything but independent.

“(It) has no substance to it whatsoever,” said Willie Hamilton, Executive Director of Black Men United.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org.

Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday at 7:40 a.m. and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

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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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