Juvenile Justice Under Review

The Omaha Police Officers Association is sounding the alarm over a juvenile court system reform bill that the organization believes will jeopardize public safety by giving young gang members a slap on the wrist when they commit crimes.

Bryton Gibbs was 16-years-old when he stabbed a pizza delivery man to death during a planned robbery. For that crime, he was tried as an adult and sentenced to 100 years in jail.

Officials with Voices for Children tell us that most crimes committed by juveniles are misdemeanors and the court system should help rehabilitate those children.

Sarah Forrest, with Voices for Children, said, “One of the really important things about this bill is that it makes sure we treat kids like kids. Nebraska is one of only a few states that give prosecutors broad authority to decide where kids go to be tried, as kids or adults.”

The Omaha Police Officers Association has a different take. They say letting petty crimes go with a slap on the wrist early, often leads to bigger crimes later and the current system is working just fine.

The Association’s John Wells said, “In order to approach violent gang activity in the City of Omaha, we have to be able to deal with it and there are, sometimes there are kids out there, 16 to 17, that absolutely, really need to be off the streets. And if we continue putting them in the juvenile court system which is a revolving door system they're not going to be held accountable until they're 19. And, boy - then it’s far too late.”

The bill in question, LB 464, is on final reading and could soon be passed by the legislature.

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