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Outrage over Officer's Actions; Local Expert Questions Policy

Outrage over Officer's Actions; Local Expert Questions Policy

By Sarah Te Slaa. CREATED Jan 13, 2012

Omaha, NE-  Two months ago, an Omaha police officer answering a call to help a suicidal person caused a crash that seriously injured him.  Now, his actions are under police review.

Several Omaha drivers call it an abuse of power by a police officer.

"They take advantage of their authority," says Debbie Collins.    

"If he's not giving warning, that's not hardly fair to the people that are driving out there and it's unsafe at that point," says Jeff Hector.

On November 4th at 11:20 at night, officer Christopher Melton raced down 60th street, possibly faster than 90 miles an hour, responding to a suicide call. He never turned on his cruiser lights or sirens. Melton's cruiser crashed into a car driven by a 16-year-old.

"He could have killed any number of people," says Dr. Samuel Walker, professor emeritus at UNO and criminal justice expert.

Walker has authored several books about holding police accountable.  He says officer Melton's behavior, not only violates police policy, it's flat out wrong.

"It looks bad because it is bad and it should not have happened," says Walker.

Walker points to part of the Omaha police policy that makes it mandatory to use lights and sirens in some emergencies.

The police policy states lights, sirens, and even headlights are required in some cases.

The police department says its ultimately up to the officer.

"The officers do have discression when responding to a call, but they do have to use due regard to the public safety," says Lt. Darci Tierney, a public information officer with the department.

Officer Melton won't face criminal charges and his case is under review by the police department.

The results of that review won't be made public.

The police union contract protects officers and states "unless agreed to by the employee, the city shall not divulge the reason for any disciplinary action."

"There's a lack of transparency and a lack of openness," says Walker.

Walker thinks it's something the public deserves to know and he wants police policies and all disciplinary action on officers to be public information.  He says it would hold city employees accountable for their actions.

Officer Melton has returned to light duty and is recovering from his injuries.