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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 they come into the community. 32
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
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
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
40 enforcement officers have a job to do.
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
43 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
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.“
Alvin Goodwin, Jr., of the Omaha Economic Development Corporation and Mary
Jane Harvey, Associate Executive of the Presbytery of Missouri River Valley,
46 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 is 'maintaining an orderly city." He said that "every attempt is made to get people to like the way we do it." He remarked that it is difficult to know
how many of the problems with police community-relations are perceived and how
many are real. However, the acting chief said if police-community relations are perceived as bad then there is still a serious problem in the area. He
said that in Omaha "there is a feeling--a perception that police officers are insensitive to minorities.47 Bernie Simon, president of the Omaha city council, said that while he believes some improvement could be made in police-community relations, he does not believe the situation is as bad as some people think. 48 Omaha Mayor Mike Boyle told staff that on
police-community relations, "we have a long way to go" but he believes
49 improvement is being made.
1. Omaha World-Herald, Oct. 1, 1965.
2. Sun, Dec. 9, 1965.
4. Sum, July 7, 1966.
5. Omaha World-Herald, Mar. 9, 1968.
6. Omaha World-Herald, Mar. 27, 1968.
7. Omaha World-Herald, July 9, 1968.
8. Sun, Sept. 4, 1969.
9. Omaha World-Herald, Aug. 20, 1969.
10. Omaha World-Herald, Jan. 30, 1970.
11. Omaha World-Herald, Aug. nd, 1970.
12. Sun, Nov. 26, 1970.
13. League of Women Voters, A Study of Police-Community Relations in Omaha,
Publication No. 71-1, 1970.
14. Omaha World-Herald, June 8, 1974.
15. Mayor's Task Force on Police-Community Relations, The First Report and
Recommendations of the Mayor's Task Force on Police-Community Relations, p. 1,
Feb. 20, 1975.
16. Omaha World-Herald, Jan. 14, 1980.
17. Omaha World-Herald, Feb. 10, 1980.
18. Omaha World-Herald, Oct. 24, 1980.
19. Omaha World-Herald, Nov. 6, 1980.
20. Omaha World-Herald, Nov. 12, 1980.
22. Wilda Stephenson, telephone interview, Nov. 17, 1981.
23. Robert Broom, interview in Omaha, Sept. 24, 1981.
24. Joe Ramirez, interview in Omaha, Sept. 24, 1981.
25. 1.C. Plaza, interview in Omaha, Sept. 24, 1981.
26. Francis Smith and others, interview in Omaha, Aug. 27, 1981.
27. Bernice Dodd, interview in Omaha, Sept. 24, 1981.
28. James Hart, interview in Omaha, Aug. 27, 1981.
29. Sonny Foster, interview in Omaha, Aug. 28, 1981.
30. George Garnett, interview in Omaha, Aug. 28, 1981.
31. Marvin McClarty, interview in Omaha, Sept. 23, 1981.
32. Luke Nichols, interview in Omaha, Aug. 27, 1981.
33. Sonny Foster, interview in Omaha, Aug. 26, 1981.
34. Wayne Tyndall, telephone interview, Nov. 5, 1981.
35. Rita Garcia, telephone interview, Nov. 10, 1981.
36. I.C. Plaza, interview in Omaha, Sept. 24, 1981.
37. Joe Ramirez, interview in Omaha, Sept. 24, 1981.
38. Debbie Brockman, interview in Omaha, Aug. 26, 1981.
39. Carl Christian, interview in Omaha, Aug. 28, 1981.
40. Elbert Ross, interview in Omaha, Sept. 24, 1981.
41. George Garnett, interview in Omaha, Aug. 28, 1981.
42. James Hart, interview in Omaha, Aug. 27, 1981; and Debbie Brockman,
interview in Omaha, Aug. 26, 1981.
interview in Omaha, Aug. 27, 1981; George Garnett, interview in Omaha,
Aug. 28, 1981; Jerry Elrod, interview in Omaha, Sept. 23, 1981; Joseph Forbes,
interview in Omaha, Sept. 23, 1981; Sonny Foster, interview in Omaha, Aug. 8,
44. George Garnett, interview in Omaha, Aug. 8, 1981; Marvin McClarty,
interview in Omaha, Sept. 23, 1981; Alvin Goodwin, Jr., telephone interview,
Nov. 5, 1981; Marvin McClarty, Robert Dacus, James Patterson, interview in
Omaha, Dec. 8, 1981.