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45. Robert Broom, interview in Omaha, Sept. 24, 1981.
46. Alvin Goodwin, Jr., telephone interview, Nov. 5, 1981 and Mary Jane
Harvey, telephone interview, Nov. 13, 1981.
47. Jack Swanson, interview in Omaha, Dec. 9, 1981.
48. Bernie Simon, interview in Omaha, Dec. 11, 1981.
49. Mike Boyle, interview in Omaha, Dec. 9, 1981.
History of Police-Community Relations
In February 1966 the city began discussions about a new position within
the police division--police-community relations coordinator--to head a community services bureau. 1
In March 1966 the city council approved the proposal but not without opposition, one council member maintaining the position was not needed and that "The lines of communication are open."2
The first coordinator was appointed a month later and was put in charge of
recruit and in-service training as well as development of a police-community relations program.
This was not the first time the issue of police-community relations was
addressed by the police division, however.
In 1956 then Police Chief Harry
Green stated he would ask the police commissioner and mayor to appoint a
"citizen's police committee" which he proposed should meet monthly to "study
all phases of police-community relations." The plan included representation of minority groups on a body which would promote clear relations between the police division and the public. 4 No further reports of the "citizen's
police committee" were found in the city library's newspaper files.
the files show that a Police Advisory Board, reported as recently established, held hearings on an allegation of police abuse. This group, however, was Composed entirely of police officers.5 In November 1965 the Sum newspaper reported on a series of meetings on the South, East and Near North sides of
Omaha at which the police division sought to establish a dialogue with the
After relatively peaceful meetings on the South and East sides,
police officials reported they had not anticipated the wide ranging criticism they heard from the black community. 6
In March 1967 Inspector Al Pattavina was assigned the job of
police-community relations coordinator. At that time the purpose of the
program was "to create awareness on the part of the public as to the nature of the problem we face--to get them involved.
The World-Herald reported that "Much of Pattavina's effort will center on improving the police 'image' in the city's Negro ghetto area, scene of racial violence last summer.
of this effort, the police proposed a ride-along program, expansion of the Police Activities League, more cooperation between the police and the schools,
creation of a speakers bureau, and possible increased use of beat policemen. 9 In July 1967 the police opened a branch office at 2218 North 24th Street to provide direct communication between the police and the black
In late 1969 the police department added a southside facility to its
11 outreach center network.
In November 1969 the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
prepared a report on police operations in the city that included significant
comments on race relations.
The IACP urged expansion of the police-community
relations program. They reported that:
IACP consultants received the impression that the rank and file in the Omaha Police Division look upon the concept of police-community relations as an isolated function completely divorced and distinct from routine police operations.
A police-community relations program will fail miserably if police officers are uninvolved and have little or no understanding of the larger objectives....
The citizen must cooperate with the police, understand and accept his responsibilities in a democratic society and observe laws and regulations adopted for the common good.
Those with the influence and moral authority to promote changes must contribute their abilities. The police cannot function in a vacuum.
The most brillantly conceived and precisely implemented program will be ineffective if other social ills are not cured and if the community as a
whole is unsympathetic to the aspirations of deprived persons.12 IACP stated that all Omaha policemen
must be thoroughly indoctrinated in the purposes and objectives of such programs, or they will assuredly fail. The police must be convinced that such a program is valuable not only to the community but to the police as
However, the IACP urged abolition of the position of police-community
relations coordinator because its occupant had become virtually an assistant
chief of police, compromising the control of the chief over the division's
operations. The report also stated that the position had been specifically created for a former chief of police. 14
In 1969 police-community relations coordinator Al Pattavina took a leave of absence from that position.15 In the middle of June 1970 it was reported that a community services section had been established and put under the command of an inspector.16 It maintained the storefront headquarters on the northside and kept close contact with youth in the community. The community relations staff was speaking regularly at local high schools. 17
Summarizing the changes in the police-community relations unit operations
over the six year period, ending in 1972, in which he worked for it, Lt.
Pitmon Fox II stated that there had been a shift away from complaint processing (by 1972 handled in the office of the chief) toward reaching school
children. He commented that police-community relations training had been added for recruits. 18
Following two shooting incidents in the black community, Mayor Edward
Zorinsky appointed a task force on police-community relations, chaired by
Michael Adams, a former president of the Urban League of Nebraska.
Zorinsky denied the shootings and the task force had any immediate connection. 19 Among many other recommendations, the task force suggested
, increased funding and staff for the community services bureau and expansion of the storefront operations to include evenings, nights and weekends.
In 1978 as an economy measure, the two police outreach centers on the
north and south sides of Omaha were closed.
In the summer of 1980 former Mayor Veys announced the northside outreach center would be re-established. The mayor asserted he had been contemplating
the move for some time, but had delayed public announcement util a suitable
22 site could be found. The announcement was made at a meeting with members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance whose members represented the black community in public calls for remedial action to prevent a violent summer. 23 A temporary outreach office was opened late in July 1980 in the
24 offices of North Omaha Community Development Corporation. However, a year
later Luke Nichols, a member of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance,
stated that finding a permanent location for the outreach center had
The center finally opened at its permanent location in September
Current Police-Community Relations
The community services bureau currently is made up of fifteen officers. 27
The organizational chart for the division shows the bureau
divided into two sections, community relations and youth aid. The community
relations section has the human relations unit, public information unit and
program development unit. The safety education unit is the only unit in the youth aid section.28 An undated document obtained from the police division
lists fifteen functions and programs for the human relations unit including
school visitations; "operation identification" to inform the public how to
engrave identification numbers on their property; displaying the crime
prevention mobile unit; and, providing speakers for civic clubs, service
clubs, churches and other groups.
The functions of the "storefront" operation
are given as:
Develop a neighborhood consciousness of the need for mutual cooperation and understanding in the improvement and maintenance of law and order.
Provide the citizen with a neighborhood police facility where they