City Council Divests $2 Million from Police to Community Resources

The audience of the Omaha City Council meeting on Aug. 11, 2020.

Omaha City Council President Chris Jerram has asked the city’s finance department to modify the city’s proposed 2021 budget to move $2 million from the Police department to community programs.

The drafted amendment comes two days after community members swarmed the city council’s public testimony on Mayor Jean Stothert’s proposed budget on Aug. 11, demanding the Omaha Police Department not receive a budget increase of $1.96 million from last year’s budget.

Of the $2 million Jerram proposed be taken out of the police department’s  $161.3 million budget, $500,000 would bolster employment programs at Heartland Workforce Solutions. The remaining $1.5 million would go toward community resources to promote “behavioral health counseling, mental health crisis diagnosis, treatment and response, mental/behavioral health rehabilitation services and other related treatment, housing, safety and support services.”

Stothert and OPD Chief Todd Schmaderer issued statements immediately following the announcement. 

“President Jerram’s amendment compromises public safety and contradicts his longtime support for the Omaha Police Department and his belief that we need more police officers, not fewer,” Stothert said in a press release. “We have a responsibility to taxpayers to show them exactly where and how we spend their money. This amendment appropriates $1.5 million to unidentified agencies.”

Schmaderer has said that any cuts to the police budget would directly result in officers losing their jobs or a reduction in crime prevention and intervention efforts.

“Two million dollars equates to about 20 officers lost, or a combination of attrition and/or reduced services,” Schmaderer said in his statement. “The amendment is not methodical and will undoubtedly have unintended consequences.”

The Omaha City Council is set to meat again on Tuesday, Aug. 18 where it will vote on these proposed changes as well as the entire 2021 budget.

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