ACLU Hosts Town Hall On Police Reform

The American Civil Liberties Union held a town hall meeting Sunday to discuss police reform of the Omaha Police Department.

A panel of scholars, Councilman Ben Gray, and community leaders answered questions from the audience about what practical solutions are needed to improve police relations--particularly in North Omaha.

"A lot of people have trust in the police, North Omaha does not and we're not going to get that trust until they start to be held accountable," said Jobina Lloyd, one of a dozen speakers to voice concerns about police transparency.

Accountability and transparency were the major themes of the town hall. Panelists spoke about strengthening oversight, keeping better record of officers' arrests to observe patterns, and allowing the public to know when and how officers are penalized if they do make mistakes.

"If we're going to have public safety if we're going to have law and order if we're going to follow the rule of law they have to be held to a standard that nobody else is held to," said Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Some of the ideas the panel and the audience mentioned are already being considered by police. The most praised was an announcement by the Omaha Police Department in a statement Sunday that they plan to run a pilot program to test body cameras on police. Many said this news was encouraging.

"So often it's a lot of he-said she-said when it comes to encounters with the police, but this actually gives a documented record of the interaction with police and citizens and I think it's a really good first step," said Benjamin-Alvarado.

Also in OPD's statement about the town hall they said: "I am disappointed in the misleading manner the ACLU organized the town hall meeting. I am electing not to attend."

Many in the audience and on the panel acknowledged Chief Todd Schmaderer's commitment to reform.

"I think the leadership understands that there are problems," said Benjamin-Alvarado.

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