Omaha Police Department
|Omaha Police Department|
|Logo of the Omaha Police Department.|
|Motto||To Serve and Protect|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Agency executive||Todd Schmaderer, Chief of police|
|Omaha Police Department|
The Omaha Police Department, commonly known as the OPD, is the principal law enforcement agency of the city of Omaha, Nebraska. It is nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The OPD is the largest law enforcement agency in the State of Nebraska.
The OPD has 821 sworn officers covering an area of 118.9 square miles (308 km2) and a population of 432,931 people (2008 census estimate) within city limits.
The OPD is headed by a chief of police, who is appointed by the mayor with approval by the Omaha City Council. The current chief of police is Todd Schmaderer. Below the chief in rank are four deputy chiefs, who have an area of responsibility within the department.
Rank structure and insignia
|Chief of Police|
The city of Omaha is divided into quadrants by the department, with a precinct in each quadrant; Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, and Southwest. The department assists the Omaha Airport Authority's Police Department with law enforcement at Eppley Airfield, Omaha's primary airport.
Specialized divisions and units
Like most urban police departments, OPD has specialized units to deal with the differing law enforcement issues of the city. Units include:
- Air Unit
- Criminal Intelligence
- Emergency Response Unit (SWAT Team)
- Fugitive Unit
- Gang Unit
- K-9 Unit
- Internal Affairs
- Organized Crime
- Special Victims Unit (Child Abuse/Neglect)
In 1868, the position of "Police Judge" was created and John H. Sahler was appointed to fill that role. Later that same year, the City Council directed members of the force to provide themselves with "dark blue, single breasted coats, shirts and pants of the same material. They were required to have caps with a brass plate in the front marked City Police." Between 1869 and 1882 the size of the department fluctuated until it grew steadily from 14 officers starting in 1882.
In 1891, an African American man named Joe Coe was lynched in downtown Omaha after being accused of raping a white child. Despite conflicting reports from the child, her parents and the community, a mob dragged Smith from the Omaha jail and hung him from a streetcar line nearby.
In 1909 the South Omaha Police Department requested assistance from the Omaha Police Department to protect the life of a prisoner accused of dating a "white" woman; the prisoner was Greek. When large mobs descended from Omaha into Greek Town, located just south of the Omaha border, OPD officers did nothing to intervene. As a result a large community was burnt to the ground.
On September 28, 1919, the Omaha Race Riot occurred, one of many race riots happening in many cities around the United States that year. The riot stemmed over allegations against 41 year old Will Brown, an African-American Omaha citizen, of raping 19 year old Agnes Loebeck, a white woman, at gunpoint. Brown was arrested and brought to the Douglas County Courthouse to face charges, however a white mob began to gather with the intent of taking out vigilante justice on Brown. Omaha Mayor Edward Smith was lynched while trying to prevent an angry crowd from taking Brown, although he ultimately survived the ordeal after being rescued by Omaha Police detectives Al Anderson, Charles Van Deusen, Lloyd Toland and Russell Norgard. Brown was surrendered to the mob under mysterious circumstances and was dragged out into the street and brutally lynched. His body riddled with bullets from the rioters while hanging in front of the Douglas County Courthouse in downtown Omaha and burned to near ashes. The Courthouse itself was gutted by fire as a result of the rioters' prior attempts to flush out Brown and the police officers attempting to protect him.
After lynching Brown, the mob moved to a nearby police station to lynch black prisoners being held there. Fortunately for the prisoners, they were released by a police captain when word of Brown's lynching spread. Unable to control the situation, Omaha Police requested assistance from the United States Army, and by September 29, 1,700 soldiers were deployed from nearby Fort Omaha, Camp Funston (part of present day Fort Riley, Kansas) and Camp Dodge, Iowa.  Although soldiers reported exchanging fire with rooftop snipers at the beginning of the deployment, no further loss of life occurred. Order was restored on September 29.
In 1923, a separate motor force unit was created and "pill boxes" were installed throughout the city. Some pill boxes are in service as of 2008. That same year, the United States' first safety patrol was instituted by the department to address concerns over protecting Omaha children walking to and from school.
In 1941, the department chose a distinctive badge design. The design is still in use today.
Officer Larry Minard was killed on August 17, 1970 by a bomb placed by members of the Black Panther Party. The Omaha Police Department was heavily involved in the FBI's COINTELPRO operation, and using evidence from COINTELPRO, and from the confession of Duane Peak, Panthers David Rice (now known as Mondo we Langa) and Ed Poindexter were convicted for Minard's death and are currently serving life sentences. The guilt of the two has been questioned, and Amnesty International has released reports criticising the prosecutions actions in the Rice/Poindexter Case.
On August 20, 1995, 24 year old Omaha Police Officer Jimmy Wilson Jr. was shot to death by Kevin Allen, a member of the South Family Bloods street gang. Wilson initiated a traffic stop of Allen's van, when Allen opened the rear doors and opened fire with an SKS semiautomatic assault rifle. Wilson was found dead in his cruiser with his seatbelt still on and his radio in his hand.  Allen was convicted of first degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony and was sentenced to life in prison. Wilson's death led to the creation (by his father, Jimmy Wilson Sr.) of the Jimmy Wilson Jr. Foundation, a non-profit organization which assisted area law-enforcement agencies with purchasing body armor and dashboard cameras for cruisers.
On September 11, 2003 30 year old Officer Jason Tye Pratt, pulled a vehicle over at 10:30 p.m. for speeding and erratic driving. The driver of the vehicle was 21 year old Albert Rucker, a fugitive wanted by police on two felony warrants and who had been featured on Omaha's version of a "Most Wanted" television show, Crimestoppers. Rucker had 141 arrests on his record  by that time and was a gang member that went by the street name of "Twigs." When Rucker pulled over, he got out of his vehicle and fled the scene. The Officer who stopped Rucker pursued him on foot into a neighborhood. Pratt then assisted the other Officers at the scene searching for Rucker. While Pratt walked down the street towards a bush that Rucker was hiding behind, Rucker shot Pratt in the head, at close range with a 45 caliber handgun. Rucker then engaged backup Officer Frank Platt in a shootout in which he was mortally wounded by Platt. Rucker died four hours later in the hospital. Officer Pratt died 8 days later on September 19.
The incident gained national attention. On a visit to Omaha with Pratt's widow, Stacy, and his family, US Attorney General John Ashcroft stated "the justice system had failed Pratt and her two daughters" after it was learned that Rucker appeared before the same Douglas County District Judge, Sandra Dougherty, since 1999, who continuously lowered Rucker's bond each time appeared before her. Rucker was arrested in 1999 for a shooting and was apprehended wearing a bulletproof vest. His sentence, handed down by Dougherty, was three years probation.
Breakdown of the makeup of the rank and file of OPD
- Male: 80%
- Female: 20%
- White: 82%
- African-American/Black: 11%
- Hispanic: 5%
- Asian: 1%
- Native American:1%
Like many law enforcement agencies around the United States, Omaha Police has had their share of controversies, allegations of racially motivated excessive force, politicking and nepotism. Not all instances of officer shootings involving Omaha Police have involved white officers and minority suspects, however several incidents have led to strained relations between the department and the African-American community.
During patrol on October 26, 1997, Officer Todd Sears shot and killed Marvin Ammons. Sears, a white police officer, and his partner, stated that Ammons, an African American Gulf War veteran, had pulled out a gun from his belt after approaching the officer's police cruiser when he (Sears) drew his weapon and opened fire. Ammons was speaking on a cell phone when officers first observed him standing on a snow covered street with his car blocking the road and a gun registered to Ammons was found at the scene. It was later learned that Ammons was previously recorded on a police wire tap involving narcotics distribution.
A grand jury was called in accordance to Nebraska law which requires a grand jury investigate any death that occurs while a subject is in police custody. The grand jury indicted Sears on charges of manslaughter, however the indictment was thrown out due to juror misconduct. A second grand jury cleared Sears of all charges, however criticized Omaha Police in their handling of the incident, noting that (1)Ammons' cell phone was found in Sears' cruiser the day after the shooting; (2) drug and alcohol testing was not performed on the officers at the scene, including Sears, in accordance with policy; (3) Sears' cruiser was not impounded.  A lawsuit against the City of Omaha and Sears was brought by the Ammons family but was later dropped. Sears left the department on a disability pension, claiming post traumatic stress disorder.
On July 19, 2000, after a high speed chase involving a stolen Jeep, Officer Jerad Kruse shot and killed the driver, 46 year old George Bibbins. Kruse, stated he observed Bibbins, an African-American citizen who was only days out of prison on a previous felony, reaching down after the Jeep was forced to a stop when he opened fire. Bibbins was found dead with a screwdriver in his hand.
The incident was investigated by a grand jury and Kruse was cleared of any wrongdoing, which led to outrage not only in the African-American community, but also among fellow African-American Omaha Police Officers. This incident, along with the Marvin Ammons shooting, led to a strained relationship between the department and the Omaha African-American community. Kruse, like Sears, also left the department with a disability pension.
At a memorial service for Albert Rucker, Bishop William Barlowe offered the family of Officer Jason Tye Pratt a check for $100 to add to the Pratt Family Assistance Fund in the name of Rucker's children. During the memorial service for Rucker, Barlowe said, "We have two sets of kids who will be aligned forever because of this incident."
Omaha Police Officer Tariq Al-Amin, while hosting the Public-access television cable TV show Protecting the Village, angrily reacted, stating "This would be my gift to the Rucker children," while brandishing a straight razor. "When you get old enough, come get it and cut Barlowe's throat for doing something like that in your name."
After the program was reviewed by Police Chief Thomas Warren, he terminated Al-Amin with the justification that Al-Amin threatened Barlowe. Al-Amin, citing his First Amendment rights appealed to the City Personnel Board, and with backing and support of the Omaha Chapter of the NAACP, the Coalition Against Injustice, Black Men United, and Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network. Al-Amin was reinstated by the personnel board on February 26, 2004. Al-Amin was given the maximum suspension without pay allowed by the contract with the police union. He also was required to publicly apologize before being allowed to return to work. Al-Amin has since retired.
In an article published in The Shield, the Omaha Police Union Newsletter, regarding a dispute between Mayor Mike Fahey and Chief Warren regarding recording police response times, Union Treasurer and Police Sergeant Kevin Housh wrote "(It is) backpedaling by the mayor's office. It's embarrassing quite truthfully. A bunch of grown men and women, supposedly leaders, acting like petty criminals trying to conceal some kind of crime." He further wrote "Quite simply they are lying to you and insulting your intelligence at the same time." 
After a review of his comments, Chief Warren terminated Housh, saying his statements were "inflammatory, derogatory and inaccurate." Warren further stated "the statements represented gross disrespect and insubordination and were in violation of Omaha Police Department policies and procedures."
Housh appealed his termination to the City Personnel Board and filed a lawsuit against Warren, Mayor Mike Fahey, and the City of Omaha in U.S. District Court alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights. Many Omaha Police Officers supported Housh, along with the Police Union, feeling his editorial was correct and that the decision to terminate him was politically motivated.
Before the case reached the City Personnel Board or Federal Court, Housh reached an agreement with Warren. Housh was allowed to get his job back and was given a suspension without pay and also had to publicly apologize. Housh, a married father of five, agreed, stating he had to do what was best for his family.
Housh was reinstated on May 1, 2005, 10 days before the Omaha mayoral election.
As of March 18, 2010, two Omaha police officers are being investigated in connection with allegations that they were seeking to plant drugs in a gang unit case, according to multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation.
Investigators are trying to determine whether Officer Frank Platt tried to stow away a small portion of marijuana so that his girlfriend gang unit Officer Kara Hindman could use it to establish probable cause for obtaining a search warrant at the home of a gang unit target, according to the law enforcement officials.
Omaha police leaders stepped in before anything could take place, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Platt and Hindman both are former nominees for police officer of the year honors. Platt has also received the Omaha Police Department's Medal of Valor.
Platt, a patrol officer in the southeast precinct, was escorted off the job in mid-March 2010, and his locker was cleared out.
Officer Platt made a pension request on May 19, saying he has a service-connected disability.  Platt and his attorney claim the officer suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression related to three officer-involved shootings. Platt said the conditions prevent him from performing his duties. In September 2003, Platt shot Albert Rucker.  Platt was also involved a shootout in March 2005 near 31st Street and Titus Avenue.  In March 2008, Platt shot and killed Jovan Reed. 
On 21 March, 2013, 32 Omaha Police Department officers attacked residents and entered a home without a warrant or emergency circumstances. They illegally seized two cameras used by witnesses to film their actions and destroyed their data. The officers were unaware a third citizen was filming them. This video was posted on YouTube.
An investigation revealed officers had conspired to lie in official statement to protect themselves.
- List of law enforcement agencies in Nebraska
- List of U.S. state and local law enforcement agencies
- Crime in Omaha
- Timeline of racial tension in Omaha, Nebraska
- Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics, 2000: Data for Individual State and Local Agencies with 100 or More Officers
- "Officer Appeals Firing".
- "Controversial Officer Retiring".
- 6th Omaha police officer loses job over 33rd, Seward Street arrests By Erin Golden, 10 January 2014, World-Herald
- Bail set at $5K for fired Omaha officer accused of evidence tampering By Todd Cooper, 8 May 2013, World Herald
- OPD press release, PDF, http://content.omaha.com/media/maps/ps/2013/april/Excessive%20Force%20Allegation%20Response.pdf