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program was "to create awareness on the part of the public as to the nature of the problem we face--to get them involved."7 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.
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
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.
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
17 relations staff was speaking regularly at local high schools.
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 commumity, Mayor Edward
Zorinsky appointed a task force on police-community relations, chaired by
Michael Adams, a former president of the Urban League of Nebraska. Then Mayor
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 until a suitable site could be found.22 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
A temporary outreach office was opened late in July 1980 in the offices of North Omaha Community Development Corporation.24 However, a year
later Luke Nichols, a member of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance,
stated that finding a permanent location for the outreach center had stalled. 25
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
To serve as a link between "grass roots community" and the police administration.29
Data were received from the police division on community service contacts
for the months January 1980 through May 1981. The Advisory Committee reviewed
the data for the months of August and April of 1980 and 1981 to obtain a
picture of what might be typical contacts during the school and summer
In August 1980 there were 62 community service contacts which brought
the police division into contact with 1,376 individuals. Forty-two of the
contacts that month were listed as "display of the crime prevention mobile units." Other contacts were lectures on home security, self-protection for women and juvenile procedures. Three contacts were with schools.
August 1981, 20 community service contacts were made which reached 379
individuals. Again the mobile uit was very popular accounting for 15 of the
contacts. One school was visited for a meeting on "problems with students and police."31 Sixty-four contacts were made in April 1980, nine of those were
display of the crime prevention mobile unit. Members of the police division
met 3,367 citizens that month during the various contacts. Forty-three
contacts were with schools. During that month lectures were given to
Records for April 1981 show 137 contacts with only 11 for the crime prevention
One hundred and two school contacts were listed and 11,067
individuals were reached. Non-school contacts involved lectures on
police-community relations, self-protection for women and crime against the
Mr. Simon, president of the city council, said that he believes the safety
education unit which works with school children is doing a great job. But
other areas could probably use improvement in his estimation. Mr. Simon said
that he thought manpower had been a problem and that he believed the community
services bureau was probably the first one cut when staff was needed
City Councilmember Fred Conley stated he was not sure that the outreach
office was useful. The improvement of police-community relations should be the responsibility of all police officers. In his opinion, having the
separate office gives the impression that police-community relations is the
job of only a few.
When reminded of how strongly the black community had
urged the location of the office on the northside, Mr. Conley remarked that
the establishment of the office has had great support because "it is the only
thing the police division was willing to give the community." He believes
that once the community sees the changes in police-community relations it would not mind losing the office which he called "window dressing" and a
Mayor Mike Boyle expressed similar thoughts, saying he believes it is
important that the black community not be targeted. To do so makes it appear
that the remainder of the city does not have any problems. He also said he is
not sure that having a police-community relations office separate from the
remainder of the division is good. He said it could give officers not in the
unit the idea that police-community relations was not part of their job. The mayor said all officers need to be involved in police-community relations. 36 City Council President Bernie Simon emphasized that good
police-community relations are needed in the entire city and contended that
police-community relations does not mean just police relations with the
Some people interviewed were critical of the current community relations
program. Wilkinson Harper, pastor of the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, commented "we don't have a police-community relations program per se in Omaha --what Omaha has is a public relations project.
Clyde Christian, an attorney, called the program a "joke."39 George Garnett, executive
director of North Omaha Community Development, agreed with Rev. Harper, saying