Group Asks Government to Look At OPD's Excessive Force
Video of a takedown during an arrest has put the Omaha Police Department under a microscope. Did officers go too far when they tackled a suspect, and chased down his brother for his cell phone?Photo: Video by kmtv.com
Video of a takedown during an arrest has put the Omaha Police Department under a microscope. Did officers go too far when they tackled a suspect, and chased down his brother for his cell phone? Those who witnessed the incident call it chaos. The Omahans for Justice Alliance wants the U.S. Government to figure out if this is becoming a violent pattern.
The incident happened March 21st near 33rd & Seward St. A parking dispute leads to an officer taking down a man, who seemingly from the footage, wasn't armed or provoked. The officer strikes him three times. Later on, 10 officers chase another man into a home for apparently taking cell phone video of the incident. UNO Criminal Justice Professor Sam Walker, also with Omahans for Justice Alliance, says use of excessive force like this is becoming too common for OPD.
"Officers are just in the habit of thinking they can order people around and if there's something they don't like they throw somebody to the ground and start using force," Walker explained.
In March 2012, the alliance requested an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division to look at what it calls a pattern on the Omaha police force. They cited 9 incidents between July 2009 and early 2012. Walker says that information is in the hands of the justice department, but they aren't actively investigating because of a backlog of cases. Even still, he will send the latest incident for review.
"There are a lot of departments that have made tremendous progress in terms of bringing officers under control and seeing that they're doing lawful policing, none of it here in Omaha," Walker described.
President of the Omaha Police Officer's Association, Sgt. John Wells, says he's confident OPD Chief Todd Schmaderer will order a thorough investigation that will look at all the evidence including possible cruiser cam video and audio, and accounts from all witnesses. He says each time an officer uses force, no matter the extent, it has to be documented.
"Police officers are held accountable, police officers are disciplined,” Wells said. “This notion that Omaha has a corrupt police department and there's rampant excessive force, I dispute that."
Wells told KMTV Action 3 News that no officer has been placed on administrative leave because of the incident, but OPD Chief Schmaderer said one officer has been reassigned.