Stothert: Police Chief Suggested Taking Over Investigation

By: Brittany Gunter, Brian Mastre
By: Brittany Gunter, Brian Mastre

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert added fresh details Wednesday morning about the Omaha police investigation into controversial pictures taken at an Omaha fire station.

Stothert told KFAB's Good Morning show that Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer is the person who floated the idea of taking over the investigation of the OFD. The mayor also noted that the police department would take no more time to do the investigation than the fire department.

Stothert was responding to an ongoing discussion that implied she had involved the police department as a way to somehow get some political advantage out of the situation.

The fire union doesn't understand why it can't investigate itself on this one. The union called it a slap in the face, that the only reason that would be done is the feud going on between the fire chief and the mayor.

The union doesn't understand, noting an increase in violence in recent days, that this incident should garner the attention of police investigators rather than what they say amounts to a potential workplace rules violation.

The story broke Monday when someone anonymously emailed photos to the mayor's office and the news media. The pictures show a woman in an Omaha fire station posing with firefighters wearing beads. A second photo shows the woman posing on a fire truck.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the mayor was quoted as saying, "This will ensure there is a thorough and impartial investigation conducted."

Stothert Statement

In a clarification issued after release of the statement, the mayor's office noted that the date referenced regarding when the photos were taken should have been July 20th rather than June 20th.

The anonymous source claimed the photos were taken last weekend at Station 33 at 42nd and Valley and involved a bachelorette party. Fire Union President Steve LeClair, has confirmed the men in the photo are two Omaha firefighters.

We did reach out to the Omaha Fire Department to ask about the photos. Tim McCaw said, “An investigation was started this morning and once the investigation is complete, fire officials will release their findings.” That was prior to the mayor's decision on Tuesday about moving the investigation into the hands of the Omaha Police Department.

Neither said they could comment on the policy of photos being taken at the fire department. It's not unheard of for firefighters to pose for pictures on the job or even to let children sit in the truck and hit the siren while they wait for an emergency call. Mayor Stothert says the photos released this week are "inappropriate."

City leaders tell Channel 6 News they recognize that a firehouse is a public place and for some neighborhoods it is a hangout, but are concerned about this example. Sources say the police department handles thousands of investigations every year and one more won't make a difference in the workload.

The timing couldn't be worse for the fire department. Fire Chief Mike McDonnell and Mayor Stothert are at odds over the budget. She says he needs to manage it better and cut millions. He says his hands are tied because of the contract.


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