Omaha Latino Peace Officers Association members stop paying dues after FBI searches

More than 140 police officers withholding funds from organization that started PACE as investigation continues.
Members of a nonprofit organization focused on law enforcement have stopped paying dues after a controversy
Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 4:18 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - There’s been a mass exodus from an Omaha nonprofit.

It comes after the FBI searched homes and a business last month.

The Omaha Latino Peace Officers Association is hemorrhaging dues-paying members.

The current president and past president, who are both Omaha Police officers, are under investigation by Internal Affairs. Select OPD detectives are helping the FBI with its investigation.

Omaha Police officers are now questioning how their money is being spent by the Latino Peace Officers Association.

Last month, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said he’s “concerned PACE may have been used for criminal activity.”

The Latino Peace Officers Association started PACE years ago.

According to the City of Omaha Finance Department, approximately 150 police officers had dues withheld from their paychecks, earmarked for the Latino Peace Officers Association, in early December.

10 days later, the FBI served search warrants on several places, including the Latino Peace Officers Association president’s home, Officer Johnny Palermo, a 20-year veteran of the department.

Fast forward to the first city pay-period in January 2023 — three weeks after the FBI search. Only eight employees have opted to continue paying dues to the Latino Peace Officers Association. That means 142 officers have paused paying what amounts to $144 a year to the LPOA.

The FBI hasn’t yet said why they’re interested in this case. South Omaha City Councilman Vinny Palermo’s home was also targeted three weeks ago. There’s no relation between Vinny Palermo and Officer Johnny Palermo.

Officer Palermo and the Latino Peace Officers association’s past president Officer Daniel Torres remain on paid administrative leave during the internal investigation.

Recently Johnny Palermo turned in his retirement papers and his last day on the job is next week.

Police Athletics for Community Engagement, also known as PACE, seems to be in the middle of the investigation. Again, the Latino Peace Officers Association started PACE in 2005 to help at-risk kids build bridges with police and the community through sports like baseball and soccer.

The FBI also searched PACE’s headquarters at 38th and X streets last month.

The national office for Latino Peace Officers Association says it hopes this investigation doesn’t reflect poorly on all the good other chapters and members do on a daily basis.

Last month, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert suspended all city financial support for PACE. The city had earmarked $100,000 for the nonprofit in 2022 and 2023 through Community Service funds.

6 News left a message with Officer Palermo for comment but has not heard back.