Omaha Police Union praises Mayor’s call for police salary increases, talks impacts

Police recruitment has been a struggle for metro departments in recent years.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 10:17 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - When it comes to policing, recruitment hasn’t been easy the last few years.

“Recruiting is more difficult, and you have to be intentional about doing it. It is something that you can’t just anymore hope that somebody just comes in and applies for you,” says Lt. Howard Banks with the Bellevue Police Department.

Although Bellevue Police has nearly a full staff, Banks says recruitment still takes hard work.

“It’s just a different generation, you know back in the day there were more people that just flat out wanted to do the job, nowadays there’s just not that many so the pool of applicants is smaller.”

And it’s not any easier in bigger departments, either.

Right now, Omaha Police is down more than 100 officers, prompting the Mayor to address the issue in her State of the City address.

“To attract more qualified candidates we will begin negotiations with the Omaha police union to raise salaries,” she said. “We must offer higher competitive salaries. We are the biggest in Nebraska and we must remain the best.”

Omaha Police Union President Sgt. Anthony Conner agrees.

“First of all, we commend the mayor for acknowledging the recruitment and retention crisis we’re under right now,” Conner says.

“The biggest thing is Omaha is the biggest city in the state of Nebraska, we have the most crime and the most violence, we have officers that have been shot recently officers that have been shot at recently, and because of that and the scrutiny we deal with, no offense to the media, but we deal with more scrutiny than any other agency in the state will ever deal with, and because of that we deserve to be paid the highest in the state.”

Despite being the biggest department in the state, OPD is not the highest paid.

“Right now the starting wage is about $51,000 so that’s about 32% behind Lincoln right now and Lincoln is now the highest paid in the state”

Conner says all agencies across the state, and even the country, are competing for the same pool of applicants. Increasing the wages here will lead to a larger number of those applying for the department.

“So if you’re looking at an agency and you want to start off as an officer as a 21-year-old, are you going to look at Omaha, the place that has the most scrutiny, the most violent, the most challenging job, and also get paid quite a bit less, or are you going to go to Lincoln or another surrounding agency?” Conner adds.

He says the officers in Omaha deserve it.

“We’re the best, no offense to other agencies in the state, we’re the best when you look at cities our size, you look at how we’ve reduced our violent crime in half the last couple years, we’ve done things very special in this city and we’re doing it while running short, so our officers are working a lot of hours, a lot of overtime and were still doing our best to have a professional police agency that’s keeping the public safe.”

However, if wages increase for Omaha officers, it could pull applicants away from smaller surrounding agencies, like the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, La Vista, Bellevue, and Papillion.

Lt. Banks says as a recruit, he gets it.

“We’re all looking for good, qualified applicants, and agencies are going to have to do what’s best to get more in the door to increase their pool of applicants to choose from,” he says.

“We’re definitely all for and supportive of the various agencies around the metro or anywhere, whatever steps they feel they need to take to get more applicants in the door, then that’s what they need to do.”

Bellevue Police is budgeted for 111 sworn officers and currently has 109.