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Nebraska Advisory Committee to the
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

June 1982

Clarence Pendleton, Chairman
Mary Louise Smith, Vice Chairman
Mary F. Berry
Blandina Cardenas Ramirez
Jill S. Ruckelshaus
Murray Saltzman

John Hope III, Acting Staff Director

Dear Commissioners:

The Nebraska Advisory Committee submits this report of its review on police-community relations in Omaha, Nebraska, as part of its responsibility to advise the Commission on civil rights issues within the State.

The Advisory Committee and staff of the Central States Regional Office interviewed a wide range of individuals during the period May 1981 to December 1981 including the mayor, chief of police and some police officers, other city officials and concerned citizens. Those persons who were interviewed were given an opportunity to comment on the draft of the report. Where appropriate, comments and corrections indicated by them have been incorporated into the final report.

The Advisory Committee found that although the city has made some efforts to recruit minorities and women, these efforts have not enabled it to meet the terms of the 1980 consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Midwest Guardians, an organization of black police officers. The Advisory Committee urges the mayor to direct the city personnel department and police division to develop and implement a joint recruitment program. The chief of police should assign at least one full-time position within the division the responsibility to actively recruit minority applicants. All officers should be urged to make ad hoc efforts to recruit minorities and women and those who successfully recruit candidates who begin the examination process should be rewarded with monetary and/or special commendations useful in promotional decisions.

The Advisory Committee found that the 1980 consent decree has been the source of resentment, misunderstanding and hostility within the police division and community and urges the chief of police to add a review of the consent decree to recruit and inservice training.

The Advisory Committee found that only one of the employment selection devices used by the police division has been validated for job relatedness. The Committee also found many people lacked confidence in the fairness and impartiality of the selection devices, particularly regarding the polygraph examination and oral interviews. The Advisory Committee urges the personnel department to validate all portions of the selection process and to complete its review of the polygraph examination and oral interview as soon as possible. If either selection device is found to discriminate against women or minorities, it should be amended or eliminated.


ine Advisory Committee found insufficient recruit or inservice human relations training. The Advisory Committee urges the police division to add more human relation courses to its training programs. The city's human relations department and members of the local minority community should be considered as sources for instructors and materials.

The Advisory Committee found that although Nebraska has adopted the Model Penal Code which restricts the use of force and the police division has adopted guidelines to implement the State statute, police officers still have been involved in incidents where the force used caused great concern to the minority community. The Advisory Committee recommends that the police division provide additional recruit and inservice training on the use of force. The Advisory Committee notes that the police division has not established guidelines for escalation in the use of non-deadly force and urges the division to adopt the model rules published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police regarding the use of force.

The Advisory Committee found that the community services bureau has not had a stable existence and that its purpose and functions are not understood by the public. The Advisory Committee urges the police division to review the current status of the community services bureau, evaluate its activities and develop a coordinated program to improve police-community relations. Further, the Advisory Committee recommends that the police division initiate a public information campaign for at least twelve months and should make the program permanent if it succeeds in improving police-community relations. The mayor and chief of police should issue a joint statement emphasizing their support of community relations programs and making it clear that discourteous, disrespectful or unfair treatment of citizens by police officers will not be tolerated.

The Advisory Committee found that there has been too little contact between police officers and the community, despite limited outreach programs in the past and despite the current desires of the mayor and police division officials to have police officers leave their cars to walk part of their beat while remaining available for calls. The Advisory Committee recommends that the chief of police make clear that division policy encourages informal contacts with the community.

The Advisory Committee found that the minority community has very little confidence in the existing citizen complaint process. The Advisory Committee recommends that the city establish a citizen complaint process that balances the rights of the police officers and the citizens. A public information campaign should be initiated to inform citizens about the complaint process.

We urge you to concur with our recommendations and to assist the Advisory Committee in follow-up activities.


SHIRLEY M. MARSH, Chairperson
Nebraska Advisory Committee


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The report was produced with the assistance of the Commission's Central States

Regional Office. The investigation, report and legal sufficiency review were

the principal staff assignment of Elaine M. Esparza, Esq. Writing assistance was provided by Malcolm J. Barnett. Editorial assistance was provided by

Etta Lou Wilkinson. Valuable assistance was also provideed by Jo Ann Daniels

and Gloria O'Leary, support staff. The project was undertaken under the

overall supervision of Melvin L. Jenkins, Esq., Director, Central States

Regional Office.



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