Mr. Al Martinez Sr. passed away from Parkinson’s Disease complicated by COVID-19. He was a decorated member of the armed forces, a community activist and a pioneer as the first Latino police officer on the Omaha Police Department, working there for 33 years. He served his South Omaha community for more than 50 years.
Born and raised in South Omaha, Al enlisted in the U.S. Navy in his teens and married the love of his life, Dee. The couple went on to raise five children together. After leaving the Navy, Martinez was a rare two-time recipient of an admiralty in the Nebraska Navy, an honor bestowed by the governor. He went on to help serve as a six-time commander of the American G.I. Forum, a veteran’s organization in South Omaha, and was an active member till the end of his life. “He brought a lot of influential politicians and people down to the G.I. Forum who might not have stepped foot in South Omaha if not for Al,” said Joe Cabral, a family friend and community leader. “He was civic-minded and instrumental in helping raise awareness for his South Omaha community.”
During his tenure as an Omaha police officer, Martinez forged and bridged community pathways between the Latinos community and the OPD which had not existed before. His son Mark Martinez is a retired deputy police chief, a former U.S. marshal and first Latino elected to the Omaha School Board. Mark is just one of three sons who followed their father’s police officer legacy.
“Dad was just a humble person who wanted to help others,” Mark said. “His love for his fellow man helped him in his life and career. He looked after and cared for the marginalized.” Al was an active member of the OPD’s Latino Peace Officers Association and oftentimes mentored other Latinos who were interested in becoming police officers.
Throughout their lives, Al and Dee often would open their home to displaced or troubled youth who needed a stable home environment while still raising their own five kids. Al was also very involved in his home parish Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, and was chairperson for the well-known annual church fiesta for a number of years. “He definitely set an example and a high standard for us in helping those who were hurting in our community,” Mark said. Martinez also coached for the Special Olympics of Nebraska and was a volunteer baseball coach in his spare time. In 1985 he was named Nebraska’s first “Hispanic Man of the Year” and in 2018 was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Omaha Police Department. On November 24th, 2020, City Council District 4 representative Vinny Palermo declared “Al Martinez Sr. Day” to acknowledge his selfless dedication to his family, community and to the Omaha Police Department. Al’s legacy continues through his loving family and through the people and community he loved and served.