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Nebraska lawmakers push to make public the names of officers with questionable records

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Two state senators are pushing for a law that would require all Nebraska law enforcement agencies to maintain and make public lists of officers who have misconduct or disciplinary histories that could affect their credibility.

Sen. Terrell McKinney

McKinney

State Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha announced on Wednesday his intention to reintroduce such a bill. The announcement came two days after an Omaha police captain was awarded $700,000 by a jury in her federal lawsuit against the city and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.

Former Omaha Police Capt. Kathy Belcastro-Gonzalez contended that Schmaderer retaliated against her when he bypassed her for a promotion to deputy chief after she scored No. 1 on a test.

The Brady list, or “do not call” list, stems from a U.S. Supreme Court case in 1963, Brady v. Maryland, that said prosecutors must share possible exculpatory evidence on officers with defense attorneys.

Officers on that list could have lied under oath or been the subjects of criminal or internal investigations that would deem them of questionable credibility by attorneys.

On the first day of Belcastro-Gonzalez’s trial, former Deputy Police Chief Greg Gonzalez, Belcastro-Gonzalez’s husband, mentioned the names of two OPD officers who he said were on OPD’s list. Despite that, at least one of the officers has been promoted to lieutenant.

McKinney said the idea that officers on that list still get promoted is concerning.

After he heard about Belcastro-Gonzalez’s trial, McKinney said, he determined it was time to garner support for his bill, which would make those officers’ names available to the public.

“A lot of things around policing, we’ve been stonewalled, in my opinion, as far as getting true accountability,” McKinney said. “When you have a department that continuously promotes individuals that are on this list, I think the public should know.”

Justin Wayne

Wayne

State Sen. Justin Wayne, also of Omaha, will be a co-sponsor of the bill, McKinney said.

“Brady lists are vital public information as they show which police officers have credibility issues and indicate whether prosecutors are following the law by maintaining and updating these records,” Wayne said in a prepared statement. “Juries should know, for instance, if the police employee testifying before them has been investigated and found to have committed misconduct in the line of duty.”

McKinney’s bill last session garnered opposition from law enforcement agencies and unions, as well as the Nebraska County Attorneys Association, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. The bill didn’t make it to the floor for debate.

Tony Conner, the president of the Omaha Police Officers Association, had told the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee that there’s no clear standard for prosecutors putting officers on the list.

“This bill does absolutely nothing to enhance public safety,” Conner said in February. “The clear purpose of (the bill), in our view, is to publicly and punitively jeopardize the reputations and careers of those who serve in law enforcement.”

Conner said Wednesday that the union would oppose the bill again. He said the public — and even officers — don’t understand what a Brady list means, so publishing a list would serve only to embarrass those officers.

“Some officers on that list really have not had any misconduct, so it’s just a way to publicly shame an officer. It seems like that’s the only goal for the bill.”

McKinney said checks need to be in place to hold police officers accountable.

“It’s clear that the police can’t police themselves at all,” he said.

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