The Omaha Police Department has concluded an internal investigation of a case that began with a rough arrest in a chaotic confrontation last March. A total of six officers have been relieved of duty.
One officer was relieved of duty on April 4th, 2013. Three Omaha Police Officers were relieved of duty on April 5th, 2013 and all have subsequently been terminated.
A fifth officer was recommended to be terminated January 8th, 2014 and a sixth officer was recommended to be terminated January 9th. The last two are now awaiting pre-termination hearings.
Family members of those arrested claimed officers used excessive force.
Police were called to North 33rd and Seward on March 21, 2013 to check for illegal parking. The situation escalated and a neighbor recorded video of an officer taking down 28-year-old Octavius Johnson, who was having his car towed for expired tags. Johnson's brothers, Juaquez and Demetrius Johnson, also filmed the arrest. That video was confiscated by an officer.
Dyea Rowland was terminated Thursday. Two officers, Aaron Von Behren and James Kinsella, were fired and criminally charged. Both have pretrial conferences scheduled for February 6th. Kinsella faces a felony charge of tampering with evidence and two misdemeanor charges. Von Behren faces two misdemeanor charges.
Officers Brad Canterbury and Justin Reeve were also fired.
On Monday, the Johnson family, with help from the ACLU, filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging excessive force and a warrant-less search and seizure were used in response to the incident.
In the lawsuit, five members of the family ask for monetary damages for their medical bills, damages to property, lost time from work and other expenses. Additionally, the ACLU hopes for punitive damages against four officers along with mandatory training for all OPD officers in deescalation and First Amendment rights of those filming police.
ACLU Executive Director Becki Brenner said news of a fifth officer now in the spotlight does not affect their case.
“It doesn’t affect the lawsuit at all,” she said. “One of the things we really stressed in the lawsuit was that we would like to see some systemic change in the way police officers are trained; the things they're taught; how they're taught to deescalate a situation.”
More information could come from the police soon but the ACLU believes Thursday’s action spoke volumes.
Brenner said, “This shows us how serious that the police chief takes what happened with the Johnsons and the ongoing investigation shows us this was a serious breach of the way the police department should perform its duties.”
The suit specifically names Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, eight named officers and 24 unnamed officers.
In a news release announcing the end of OPD's internal investigation, Chief Todd Schmaderer is quoted as saying, “As I have previously stated, we did not carry ourselves in a manner representative of the Omaha Police Department in this incident. I am confident in saying the Omaha Police Department is a better department in the aftermath of this incident.
"Earlier this year, the Omaha Police Department was awarded full CALEA (Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies) Accreditation based on an overall assessment of the department.
"I am proud of the men and women of the Omaha Police Department who handle over 275,000 911 calls a year with great professionalism. We will continue to work with our community partners making Omaha a safe place for everyone."