Two fired Omaha police officers will soon fight for their jobs through a closed-door city appeals process.
Former Officers Bradley D. Canterbury and Justin A. Reeve, who were fired after a swift police investigation into a controversial north Omaha arrest, both signaled their intent Tuesday to appeal their terminations to an independent labor arbitrator.
Appeal notices from the Omaha Police Officers' Association, which is assisting with the appeal, were sent to Omaha Human Resources Director Richard O'Gara, Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and the city labor relations director.
“We believe the termination to be excessive and unwarranted; therefore the termination will be appealed to arbitration,” Sgt. John Wells, head of the police union, wrote in both letters.
The union, as part of the appeal, asks that both officers be reinstated and awarded back pay and benefits.
Former Sgt. Aaron P. Von Behren and Officer James T. Kinsella — two other officers who were fired as a result of the investigation — so far have not asked for the union's help with any potential appeal of their firings.
Police Department officials acknowledged that O'Gara upheld the police chief's decision to fire the four officers after due process hearings and that Schmaderer formally affirmed his decision to relieve the officers of duty.
A Police Department investigation began after footage appeared on YouTube of the arrests of brothers Octavious, Juaquez and Demetrius Johnson near 33rd and Seward Streets.
Three officers initially responded to the March 21 incident. Altogether, after a top-priority “help an officer” call was radioed, 21 officers and two command officers were involved.
The video, taken from a neighbor's house, led to allegations that excessive force was used in Octavious Johnson's arrest. Questions also were raised about whether officers had grounds to enter the family's home after they chased Juaquez Johnson inside.
The department probe led to allegations that one of the four fired police officers sought to destroy video footage of the arrest and that some other officers made plans to cover up the incident.
Investigators with the Nebraska State Patrol are assisting a criminal probe into those allegations, led by the Douglas County Attorney's Office.
Canterbury's actions were captured on camera as he took Octavious Johnson to the ground and appeared to strike him several times. Canterbury never left the view of a videotape taken from the neighbor's house.
Details on Reeve's involvement in the department's investigation remain unavailable.
Von Behren, a supervisor, had been accused of attempting to coordinate the stories of the officers involved.
Kinsella was alleged to have removed a memory card from a camera used by one of the Johnson brothers to videotape officers' actions, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
Three additional officers remain on administrative leave, and one officer has been reassigned.
Still under investigation are Officers Dyea L. Rowland, Matthew C. Worm, John D. Payne and Joseph A. Koenig.
The arbitration process can last for months.
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