Other cities calling on Omaha for help with community relationships

An Omaha Police kneels with protesters Monday, June 1, 2020, in the Old Market area of...
An Omaha Police kneels with protesters Monday, June 1, 2020, in the Old Market area of downtown Omaha. OPD Deputy Chief Ken Kanger said police asked protest leaders that if both sides took a knee, that protesters would comply with the order and leave peacefully. (WOWT) (WOWT)
Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 5:54 PM CDT
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Since George Floyd’s death, Omaha has been taking calls from other cities when it comes to building relationships within the African American community.

Who knew that other cities would be calling Omaha for advice on relationship-building?

As protests broke out last week across the country, the Empowerment Network in Omaha started to get calls from leaders in other communities.

Willie Barney with the Empowerment Network said, “When police chiefs and communities hear about what is happening here they are shocked. First that people would be that committed and dedicated to come together like that. And have open communications and possible solutions, what group does that?"

Outsiders have noticed the connection between black city leaders, pastors, organizations, and the Omaha Police Department.

The relationship isn't perfect Willie Barney will say but adds Omaha is better positioned because of the connections forged for 15-years.

For example, on Monday, Deputy Chief Ken Kanger took a knee with protestors in The Old Market.

"That's not an onetime thing with Ken. They're it day in, day out -- looking for ways to work with the community to make things happen,” said Barney.

The Empowerment Network has been doing heavy lifting improving the quality of life for African Americans in Omaha.

Willie Barney believes the death of George Floyd will only bring more people to the table.

“Think about the work we do, when was the last time you saw a chief of police from Omaha come out with a statement condemning that act and then other police chiefs follow. I've never seen that," said Barney.

Over the years, the community has pushed for more accountability with Omaha Police, for body cameras, scaling back the use of force, and more diversity.

Willie Barney says the department has responded. That’s the trust factor. He says that’s important to have when situations get tense.