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Arrested protesters’ release slowed by computer issues at Douglas County Corrections

Last of those arrested Saturday night expected to be released by 10 p.m. Sunday
Published: Jul. 26, 2020 at 4:26 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2020 at 10:28 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A number of protesters arrested Saturday night near Turner Park were being released from Douglas County Corrections on Sunday afternoon, but some were still trickling out nearly 24 hours after the protest.

One by one, protesters celebrated after their extended stay at DCC, blamed on a kink in the facility’s computer system.

Michael Myers, Director of Corrections, said it was bad timing and unintentional when a routine maintenance update that typically occurs at 3:30 a.m. initially delayed releases of arrested protesters in the early hours of Sunday morning.

“That process creates a hard stop in our release process because we’re unable to do the nationwide record checks and other things that we do to assure that we’re not releasing somebody who we shouldn’t,” he said.

The routine maintenance outage typically happens Sunday mornings because the facility isn’t processing a high volume of arrests.

When the update ended, not all of the functions came back online. That slowed the release process down further as protesters waited in cells while the county used a paper system to process their release.

Jordan Cordin said he posted bond around 9 a.m. but couldn’t get released until 2 p.m.

“They kept telling us there were these, you know, IT problems with the system and stuff. kind of giving us false hope — and it was like every two hours they would do that,” he said.

Upon release, protesters provided food for one another as they returned to muggy conditions outside.

“I’m tired. I’m exhausted,” said protesters Mergo Petrichor. “Being in there was a nightmare. And I don’t ever want anybody to have to go through that again.”

IT fixed the facility’s computer issues around 4 p.m. Myers said he hoped to have everyone out by 10 p.m. Sunday.

“We certainly regret the delay in releases for people,” he said. “We don’t want family members and loved ones to be waiting in our parking lot. It was very unfortunate timing to have this volume of arrests brought to our facility.”

Myers also said the county jail does its best to keep everyone safe while they’re there.

Official OPD report on Saturday protests

According to the Omaha Police Department, the protest began near Turner Boulevard and Farnam Street at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

At 8:45 that night, police said protesters began walking into traffic lanes on Farnam against the flow of traffic and began throwing barricades at police cruisers.

OPD made announcements requesting they disperse and “numerous” arrests were made.

Most of the arrests were for obstructing traffic and failure to disperse, OPD stated. A total of 126 people were arrested on misdemeanor charges Sunday night along with several accused of resisting arrest and obstruction of an officer.

The average age of those arrested was 27 years old while the age ranged from 18 to 57 years old.

Douglas County Corrections, in a statement issued Sunday night, said 109 individuals were booked from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Saturday into Sunday, with about 75% of that number being from the protest.

“It’s a multi-step process to get that many individuals booked into jail and to get them released. It’s typically a single file line,” said Mike Myers, director of the Douglas County Department of Corrections. “Even when everything is running properly, booking that many individuals at the same time creates a bottleneck situation.”

Corbin, who was arrested and then bonded out, said the protest last night was peaceful until officers escalated the situation.

“It was towards the end of everything. They pulled up to the bridge and said we were under arrest for unlawful assembly and blocked us in from both ends,” he said.

After being taken to corrections, Corbin said he and other protesters were kept in an overcrowded cell and held for 14 hours without knowing when they would be released.

“They kept telling us there were these IT problems with the system,” he said.

Multiple people who spoke with 6 News on Sunday outside the facility also claimed to have difficulties posting bail for those arrested or finding their information on correction’s website.

According to Douglas Omaha Technology Commission, the outage also affected systems used by the Omaha Police Department and Douglas County Treasurer’s Office. The systems had been restored as of 4:43 p.m. Sunday, the statement from corrections said.

Meyers said he hopes to have the remaining protesters released in the next few hours.

The protesters said they are tired but not abandoning their message about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Most of those arrested were for misdemeanors: unlawful assembly or obstructing traffic.

According to arrest records, most of the 118 misdemeanor arrests Saturday night connected to the protests were for unlawful assembly or obstructing traffic.

Those arrested ranged in age from 18 to 54; 61 were female, and 57 were male.

According to OPD records, the first person arrested Saturday night was booked at 10:24 p.m.; the last was booked at 11:12 a.m. Sunday. There was a period where no one was booked — during a five-hour span, from 4:48 a.m. to 8:38 a.m. — which may correspond with the reported computer problems OPD reported.

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