Omaha Police prioritizing diversity while recruiting new officers

6 News sat down with Omaha Police Deputy Chief Tom Shaffer to talk about the department's strategy to increase diversity within its ranks.
Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 7:26 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - After a year of tough conversations surrounding race relations, Omaha Police have been focusing on diversity amid recruitment efforts for the department.

It’s no secret that diversity in law enforcement has proven to be effective in reducing crime. The latest study to back this comes from the University of Pennsylvania earlier this year.

But it’s easier said than done.

6 News talked with OPD Deputy Chief Tom Shaffer to ask how their crews reflect the makeup of the community they serve.

“Recruitment, retention, all that stuff has been touch and go for a lot of segments including law enforcement,” he said.

Shaffer, who heads the OPD criminal investigations bureau, said the pandemic strained the department like many other sectors. But OPD Chief Schmaderer is still determined to improve the makeup of the department.

“He wants a qualified, diverse workforce,” Shaffer said.

Omaha Police Deputy Chief Tom Shaffer talked about the department's focus on increasing diversity within the ranks of local law enforcement.

In 2021, the department hired a recruit class of 60 officers — their largest ever.

“It was also the most diverse class to go through OPD,” Shaffer said.

Right now, though, more specific details on the make up of the class are still unclear. Be it race, gender, socio-economic background, or any other category, that information — as well as data regarding retention — wasn’t available at the time of their interview.

“There’s several stages to the application process and some fall off at various stages,” Shaffer said.

The current patrolling class is still making history, and it’s a direct reflection on OPD’s continued efforts to evolve the way they recruit. The department recently began an initiative to encourage members to utilize their own personal connections to community to bring in new recruits.

“We know them, we know they’re good folks. Really going after those people that we know outside of this job and being our own best recruiter,” Shaffer said.

It’s an ongoing effort that Shaffer said OPD will absolutely work to maintain and strengthen in the new year.

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