Omaha officers put collectively a diversion program for minor violations after summer time protests

Zach Gilbert
NEWS EDITOR

Those charged with minor violations during the Black Lives Matter protests last year can participate in a justice restoration program to avoid criminal convictions. Photo courtesy of the Omaha World Herald.

After protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, Omaha city officials and police officers announced a distraction program for 11 minors and five adults charged with minor offenses such as resisting arrest or disorderly behavior.

“If there are areas we can improve, this is one of them,” said Omaha’s deputy police chief Michele Bang. “Not everyone has to be in prison. It is not cost effective and does not ultimately solve the problem. “

Those charged with the above offenses participated in talks with officials about what led to their arrest and were able to voice their grievances about racial injustice, discrimination and economic justice in Omaha. Bang was present at these meetings.

“The main thing I took away from [the meetings] was to be authentic and present when a person speaks and also to give an authentic answer to our point of view and why we did what we did. “

On Tuesday, January 19, Bang stood alongside Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and Mayor Jean Stothert among other city officials to report that Omaha will be expanding its restorative justice program to a “six-month pilot program” in August. If successful, the group found that this would be a permanent avenue of diversion for legitimate defendants charged with offenses and seeking to avoid criminal convictions.

Those enrolled in the Restorative Justice Program would be required to take a four-hour course, complete 12 hours of community service, keep a clean criminal record for six months, and finally register with Omaha’s Human Rights and Relations Department (which will oversee the entire company) . If all requirements are met, the fees will be dropped and the records will be sealed.

“The participants will [also] Come with a map that shows the incident, how they were injured, how they harmed the community, and some tools to take with them to prevent this series of events from happening again, ”Asst said. Director for Human Rights and Relations Gerald Kuhn.

Officials involved in the arrest of a protester can also participate in this diversion program, and it has been actively promoted by proponents of the project.

“I want to make sure that there are two ways of learning so that citizens can learn from Gerald and the police, but we learn from them,” said the Director of Human Rights and Relationships, Dr. Franklin Thompson.

Bang also hoped for the prospect of the program, particularly in terms of improving the public’s relationship with the police.

“It’s a good thing for officers – we don’t see these people in crisis, not in the worst case,” she said.

Additionally, given that this decision was made only a day after the day of Martin Luther King Jr., Thompson noted the timeliness of the program and reiterated that it was “the right thing”.

“It is to be done because society demands it,” he said. “I think it will send a message to the Omaha community that we don’t just tell you and talk to you, we want to communicate and have an authentic dialogue.”

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