What do you get when you mix a motorcycle cop with a motorcycle rally?
A. Several biker gals asking to take photos on the Omaha police officer's motorcycle.
B. Two of the women pulling down their tops and exposing their breasts, one while wearing the officer's helmet, as cameras flash.
C. A seven-day, no-pay suspension for the officer, plus a one-way ticket off a motorcycle.
For Omaha Police Officer Terence Cabral, the answer was “all of the above” in a case that involved the strange bedfellows of an on-duty officer, half-naked women and a motorcycle rally to benefit Project Harmony, a center that investigates child abuse and advocates for victims.
After reviewing his officer's involvement in the July 28 rally — and photos of topless women sitting on the OPD motorcycle — Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer found that Cabral's conduct was “unbecoming” an Omaha police officer. Schmaderer suspended Cabral for a week and essentially took away his motorcycle, reassigning him to cruiser patrol for a year.
In turn, Cabral, who has been with the Police Department since June 2006, filed a lawsuit last week — seeking a judge's order to bar the chief from curbing him as a motorcycle officer. In the lawsuit, Cabral's attorney, James Crampton, contended that his client, who is Latino, received stiffer punishment than “other white, non-Hispanic officers” in other cases.
Crampton, who declined to comment in detail Monday, argues that the Omaha police contract does not allow the chief to discipline an officer by removing him from a specialty unit.
Assistant City Attorney Bernard in den Bosch said Schmaderer did not discriminate and was well within his rights to suspend Cabral from the motorcycle unit.
Douglas County District Judge Russell Bowie refused to second-guess Schmaderer or stop Cabral's removal from the motorcycle unit. Now Cabral must decide whether he will push on with his court case.
Court records spell out competing versions — the chief's and Cabral's — of what happened during the fifth annual “Pre-Sturgis Poker Run.” Project Harmony says the motorcycle ride is designed to benefit its mission “to protect and support children.”
Here's what both sides agree on:
About 5:30 p.m. July 28, Cabral had been conducting a traffic stop at 84th and L Streets when he spotted several motorcycles cruising south on 84th Street.
Cabral followed the motorcycles to Chrome Lounge, a bar for motorcycle enthusiasts at 85th and Park Drive in Ralston. Cabral pulled into the back parking lot — and found out that the motorcycles were part of the poker run for Project Harmony.
That's where the harmony ends between the stories.
Chief Schmaderer's version of what happened next:
“Though you were not in any way assigned to be there, you made the decision to stop and speak with the participants of the poker run, and to have a police presence,” Schmaderer wrote in a Nov. 2 letter to Cabral. “The investigation determined that while you were in the back parking lot of the Chrome Lounge ... two separate females sat on your OPD motorcycle and exposed their breasts long enough that pictures could be taken.”
Schmaderer wrote that two witnesses from the event “observed you in the immediate area of the females sitting on your motorcycle at the time they exposed their breasts. Both witnesses stated that they did not witness any preventative or immediate action taken by you to dissuade the females from exposing their breasts.
“Both witnesses stated that they observed you holding either a camera or cellphone up in a position that made it appear that you were taking photographs of the first female that was exposing her breasts. The male witness said that he observed you actually take a step backwards to get a better position to take a photograph.”
After the event, Schmaderer said, the Omaha Police Department received a letter from a person who claimed to have witnessed Cabral's actions.
The letter contained three photographs — one of “several females standing next to your motorcycle, one with a female wearing your motorcycle helmet and starting to expose her breasts while sitting on the motorcycle and the third picture was of the same female with her breasts completely exposed and her arms behind her head,” Schmaderer wrote.
The sender wrote that Cabral “aided and participated in taking the topless photographs.” A witness also alleged that Cabral, upon request, “handcuffed a different female and then bent her over the motorcycle as a picture was taken.”
The letter writer also said that Cabral told anyone taking pictures to “just Photoshop the number off of my bike so I don't get in trouble.”
Cabral gave a different version — denying that he took pictures of topless women.
In court documents, he wrote that he stopped in the bar parking lot and spoke to a person he knew.
“As (we) spoke ... a female approached me and asked if I would take their picture while they were on the police motorcycle,” Cabral wrote. “I agreed and took the picture. The females were fully clothed.”
Cabral said he walked about 50 feet away and “heard hooting and hollering behind me near the police motorcycle.”
“When I turned around, there was a female on the police motorcycle adjusting her shirt and wearing my helmet,” Cabral wrote. “I went back to the motorcycle and had her remove my helmet and get off the motorcycle. I never saw her topless but I was aware from the people around that she had been showing her breasts.”
Cabral said he left the area and “reported the incident to my sergeant.”
In the court document, Cabral did not address any handcuffing. However, the chief wrote that Cabral told internal affairs investigators that he did not handcuff a woman but did “hand her (his) handcuffs so she could handcuff herself and have a photo taken as (Cabral) stood next to her.”
The case has one other twist. One of the witnesses to Cabral's behavior at Chrome Lounge was an off-duty law enforcement officer. Though court documents don't say who it was, a person familiar with the investigation said it was Lt. Scott Lane of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
Cabral wrote in court documents that the lieutenant testified at Cabral's disciplinary proceeding that Cabral “took the pictures” of the women.
Cabral is going through confidential arbitration to appeal his seven-day suspension.
Crampton said the officer hasn't decided whether to press on with the court case over his ejection from the motorcycle unit. He could provide further evidence and argue for an injunction, though those arguments will be heard by the same judge who rejected Cabral's first attempt to restrain the city.
Cabral, who made about $60,000 in 2010, earns about $2,100 more annually as a motorcycle officer — plus any overtime that goes with those duties. Cabral said he stands to lose more than just pay.
“If the reassignment is enforced, I will lose credibility within the department,” he wrote. “Other police officers have been charged with much more serious offenses and been less severely punished.”
The city disagreed.
“Everybody's view of whether conduct is appropriate can be different,” in den Bosch said. “This chief and other chiefs before him have moved people out of assignments when they felt it was appropriate for the efficient operation of the department. We view this as a perfectly reasonable action by the chief.”
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