Omaha mayor, OPD chief address police budget resolution

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 3:53 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2020 at 4:18 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Mayor Jean Stothert and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer are talking about the city’s police budget decisions. The proposed budget was a main topic during Tuesday’s public hearing.

Stothert said Councilman Chris Jerram’s amendment, submitted Thursday, which proposes cutting the city’s police budget by $2 million — which would fund 20 officers — is “reckless.”

The mayor criticized the vague nature of the “community programs” that the $2 million would support instead and said those programs should be explicitly defined and well-established before committing city funds there.

The reduction could force the city to close its fifth precinct, she said.

“I do feel like this amendment does compromise public safety.”

Stothert said Jerram’s proposal contradicts his previous prioritization of the city’s police department.

The mayor said that the city has always followed what she called “the golden rule” of having two officers per 1,000 citizens,” and said that Jerram has previously said that 2.2 officers per 1,000 citizens was more appropriate — “and we’re not anywhere near that right now.”

“I think this is backwards,” she said.

Schmaderer said the plan for the city’s police force has been data-driven and methodically planned for growth. He says the $2 million dollar loss to the department would mean fewer officers or reduced services.

“There are real consequences and real people that get affected by this,” he said.

Chief Schmaderer says his officers are filling needs in the community that aren’t being met right now. For example, they’re oftentimes the first interaction with someone with mental health.

“We’re forced to take that on. Until there’s a mechanism in place that’s fully functional and workable then we have to do that,” he said.

According to Schmaderer, the department also pays for civilian mental health experts to respond to certain scenes along with the officers.

“We’d certainly love to transfer that cost somewhere else but it’s not present at the time. Nobody has stepped up to do it except the Omaha Police Department and we’re the one taking the hits for doing it.”

In the future, he’s open to funneling money into other programs that address those circumstances where police officers aren’t always needed.

“We’re open to anything but there is a method and a process associated with all of this and not a last-minute defunding of the police department,” he said.

Chief Schmaderer says today, the police spend about 50% of their time on enforcement and 50% on crime prevention or intervention.

Schmaderer acknowledged that some officers have left the force because of “what’s going on today.”

Watch the full news conference

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