Imágenes de páginas

After obtaining the views of many Omahans through public hearing testimony, personal interviews and telephone inquiries, the committee has concluded that this lack of respect must be dealt with promptly if the city is to have effective and humane law enforcement.

To be sure, not all lack of respect is based on documentable facts. Some of the mistrust is based on peoples' feelings. But fact or feeling, the rift between some citizens and officers is there.

Findings --Broadly described, citizens' complaints about Omaha police fall into these categories:

--There is a tendency for officers in the largely white police force to use excessive force and/or discourtesy when they stop minority persons.

--When an incident occurs in minority and poor communities, there is invariably too much show of force by the police. This distorted presence only helps fuel existing tensions.

--The committee found many minority and poor citizens who believe police are not there to protect them, but to protect the white community.

--A corollary point is the distinct feeling that there is a dual
system of justice in Omaha. Many Omahans heard by the committee
believe that police officers allow prostitution, street gambling and
their own misuse of firearms to flourish in poorer neighborhoods when
they wouldn't tolerate it in more affluent neighborhoods. Similarly,
many people believe suspects or law violators are handled one way in
affluent neighborhoods and in another, harsher way in minority and
poor neighborhoods.
--When citizens do make complaints about police conduct, they
generally believe nothing will be done about alleged police
wrongdoing. They feel complaints are ignored.

--Most minority citizens are sure that most of Omaha's white police officers are racist to one degree or another. Police officers, according to our task force survey, don't believe minority and poor citizens support them. This makes it almost impossible for viable police-community relations. 15

The newspaper files do not show any reviews of community perceptions

between 1975 and 1980.

But then interest recurred. Although then Chief

Andersen did not think relations between the police and community had

deteriorated, State Senator Ernest Chambers pointed out that there had been a

number of incidents in which the police had used excessive force. He said

that there were a few officers who were highly prejudiced and blamed then

16 Mayor Al Veys and Chief Andersen for failing to control these men. His

concerns were shared by four veteran black police officers interviewed by the World-Herald. They pointed out that as race relations became less visibly tense many of the police-community relations initiatives of the city had been

abandoned and that their absence contributed to a rise in hostility. They

thought merely by properly disciplining the few officers responsible for

allegations of brutality much of the tension could be reduced.

The mayor,

chief of police and president of the Omaha police union denied there were any

problems. 17

The World-Herald, commenting editorially, stated "There exists

within the black community an impression that its complaints are not handled

properly within the Police Department. Whether this be true or not, the

impression and suspicion become deeper with each incident.


Then deputy

police chief Joseph Friend commented that "The respect for policeman just

isn't there anymore.

It's a sign of the times. Respect for authority is

declining and the policeman is taking the brunt of it." He pointed out that "Some people believe that policemen are brutal and they think they will be brutalized, so they react before anything happens."19

Commenting on charges made by the black community of police misconduct, former mayor Al Veys said that "inflammatory comments about possible problems between police and blacks do nothing to help solve problems."


He was

responding to allegations by a black minister that "We have yougsters beaten,

we have mothers propositioned by white officers. We've pointed this out to your city officials and they still refuse to believe us.121

Current Community Attitudes

Current community attitudes toward the police cover a broad spectrum of

opinion, Some express fear, others ambivalence, and others support.

Wilda Stephenson stated that the "police instill an attitude of fear instead of protection."22 Robert Broom stated that a sizable portion of the

black community does not trust the police, and that there are also feelings of fear and disrespect toward police officers. But Mr. Broom did point out that

23 there are parts of the black community which support the police. Joe

Ramirez, director of the Chicano Awareness Center, stated that the Hispanic

community sees the police as the enemy, although he also said he did not hear

24 of many problems with the police from the Hispanic community. I.C. Plaza,

an Omaha resident and chairperson of the Nebraska Mexican American Commission

stated that he did not hear complaints from the Hispanic community in Omaha about police but added that the city's Hispanic population is so dispersed that perhaps no pattern of problems emerges or gains attention.


One group

of community residents told staff that they were unhappy about what they

viewed as unnecessary roughness used by police to arrest teenagers for minor offenses. 26

Bernice Dodd, director of Omaha's Opportunity Industrial Center (OIC) and a long time resident of Omaha, concluded that the residents of North

Omaha are as afraid of the police as the police are of North Omaha.


The minority communities perceive the police as often hostile to them.

Typical of this view was the statement by the president of the local NAACP,

James Hart, that police officers have a preconceived fear of blacks which

causes them to overreact in some cases. Blacks, on the other hand, fear the police and expect mistreatment. 28

One citizen stated that police do not believe they have to do anything about crime in the black neighborhoods because blacks do not have any political clout.29 George Garnett, director

of North Omaha Community Development, Inc., stated that the community

perceives the police as "potentially dangerous to their health" but also realize they need the police, explaining that good police-community relations

and good police protection translate into economic development which the black community needs. He noted some improvement since March 1981 which he

30 attributed to the new city administration. A black police officer stated that the lack of witnesses to crimes in the black community is evidence not

that there are no witnesses but that people do not know or trust police and

therefore do not come forward.


Luke Nichols, a member of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance,

stated that police brutality was never a serious problem, rather the problem

is unequal treatment such as stopping only black citizens for routine traffic

checks or not taking crime in the black community seriously. He stated that

the community wants the "after hours joints," gambling and drug dealing out of

the community but they also want the police to respect everyone's rights when

32 they come into the community.

Sonny Foster, a member of the Board of Directors of Urban League, stated

that he believes the black community is more supportive of the police than any

other segment of Omaha. Mr. Foster asserted that black citizens want crime

out of their neighborhoods but they also want their constitutional rights

respected. 33

Similar sentiments were expressed by Wayne Tyndall, Director

of the American Indian Center of Omaha. Mr. Tyndall said he realized that in

encounters with the police American Indians were not entirely blameless, but

even if there is cause for arrest, they should be treated fairly and not

harassed. 34

Many in the community expressed support for the police. Rita Garcia of the Indian-Chicano Health Center reported her clients had not complained about

35 the police and that she thought bilingual services were adequate. Mr.

Plaza said he thought the Hispanic community sees the police as friendly and helpful and that bilingual services are adequate.36 Mr. Ramirez, however,

was of the opinion that language problems do occur that cause simple

situations, like issuing a traffic ticket, to escalate into serious

problems. 37

Debbie Brockman, coordinator of a coalition of neighborhood

associations called IMPACT, told staff that on the whole people are

sympathetic to the police and understand what they face on the street.


believes the community wants more personal contact and "humanism" from the

officers. 38

Carl Christian of the Bedford Place Neighborhood Council told

staff that members of the neighborhood association are satisfied so long as they are treated with respect.39 Elbert Ross of the Binney-West-Spencer

Neighborhood Association told staff he was brought up at a time when "you knew

if you did wrong you would go to jail." He believes people should realize law enforcement officers have a job to do. 40

Several community leaders agreed with George Garnett who said the new

public safety director, Joe Friend, gave the impression of being responsive

and accessible and was sensitive to the issues involved in police-community relations. 41

Two people, James Hart of the NAACP and Debbie Brockman, coordinator of IMPACT, noted that the new public safety director is trying to improve police-community relations by communication with the black

community--attending community meetings and making public statements in

42 support of change. Several citizens expressed the opinion that the

current city administration appeared to be more concerned about

police-community relations than others in the past.


Many interviewed said the police chief and other city officials set the

tone for the police division when dealing with citizens, that in effect the

attitude of the officer on the street reflects the attitude of their

supervisors. 44

Robert Broom commented that a new chief will have to make

clear that racial slurs, verbal abuse, excessive force and similar tactics

will not be tolerated and that offending officers will be disciplined.45 Alvin Goodwin, Jr., of the Omaha Economic Development Corporation and Mary

Jane Harvey, Associate Executive of the Presbytery of Missouri River Valley, expressed similar sentiments.


Commenting on the current status of relations from the point of view of

the police, Acting Chief Jack Swanson said the number one goal of the division

« AnteriorContinuar »