Today Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning formally requested the assistance of the Omaha Police in monitoring the Registration of Sex Offenders in Omaha.
It was not my intent to get involved in the debate between City Councilman Jim Vokal and the Omaha Police Officers’ Association over the sex offender issue. However, several news stories in the last few days have included facts about the role our office plays in tracking sex offenders that need to be clarified and I felt it was important to set the record straight.
First, let me verify that I am, in fact, on record as saying that our office could definitely use the he lp in keeping track of sex offenders who are required by state law to register their addresses with authorities. And I still feel that way today. There are over 775 Sex Offenders in Douglas County, 351 of them are Level Three Sex Offenders that have the highest likelihood that they would re-offend.
It is true that sex offenders are extremely high risks for committing another sex crime after their release from prison and there is no question that children in the neighborhoods where they live are potentially in danger. Parents have a right to be aware of this danger and we are responsible for ensuring that these offenders are living where they say they are living.
It is an extremely difficult task, as many of these convicted sex offenders will register fa lse addresses or not inform our office of subsequent moves. Obviously, electronic monitoring would be a helpful solution, however, it is not yet permissible.
While I realize that there is no legal obligation for the City of Omaha to help us with this important job, I feel that it is an area where city-county cooperation makes sense. We have cooperative arrangements in many other areas, why not on this? In fact, this type of cooperation is going on in many other jurisdictions in our area.
Let me also say that Officer Virgil Patlan, who was active in his neighborhood and concerned about the number of sex offenders that needed to be checked, made the issue before the City Council a few years ago. This was a legitimate request for assistance on a very real problem that faces many neighborhoods in Omaha. It was always my thought that officers would make these checks during normal working hours while they were on other calls in areas where sex offenders are living. Any ordinance could easily be crafted to ensure that no overtime be accrued.
While I respect the City Council’s right to reject our plea for help, I still believe that this ordinance would be extremely helpful in protecting children in Omaha neighborhoods and I would be in favor of the Council reconsidering this issue. I believe Crime Control is everyone’s problem and decisions concerning these matters have no boundaries. A few years ago I made the comment that I could use all the help I could get. Any Law Enforcement Executive that could get additional help would be negligent in their duties to refuse additional help.
In response, Omaha Police Chief Eric Buske spoke with Dunning and issued the following release:
In response to Sheriff Dunning’s request for assistance checking on the addresses of Registered Sex Offenders in Omaha, the Omaha Police Department will assist the Sheriff’s Office.
Chief Eric Buske and Sheriff Tim Dunning spoke today and procedures will be worked out between the agencies. The Omaha Police Department will play a supportive role, with the primary responsibility still resting with the Sheriff’s Office and Nebraska State Patrol, per State Statute.
There will be no overtime funds expended by OPD checking on Sex Offender’s addresses.
The Jim Vokal for Mayor campaign released this statement:
Today’s agreement between Chief Eric Buske and Sheriff Tim Dunning that would allow the Omaha Police Department to assist the Douglas County Sheriff’s office in the monitoring of high-risk sex offenders provides the strongest repudiation to date of the claims made by Aaron Hanson and the Omaha Police Union.
This interagency agreement proves without a doubt that the attacks leveled against me are completely dishonest and have little to do with public safety or educating voters. At no point did the Omaha City Council ever stand in the way of cooperation between these law enforcement agencies. Contrary to Union claims, no vote or action of mine or my colleagues has ever “blocked” Omaha police officers from assisting sheriff’s deputies in tracking sex offenders. Today’s developments confirm that fact.
Moreover, Sheriff Dunning said today that no ordinance from the city council was necessary for this law enforcement partnership to commence. This is significant, since Sheriff Dunning was one of the original “sources” cited by the Police Union to back up their fictitious claims.
This development should make clear the real motives of the Omaha Police Union’s attacks on me and my candidacy for mayor. At any point in the last week, last month, or last year, union leadership could have walked in to Chief Buske’s office and urged him to allow police assistance in the monitoring of sex offenders, and it seems very clear today that their request would have been granted.
Instead, Aaron Hanson and the union leadership have spent their time and resources on a public smear campaign, both criticizing my opposition to their exorbitant pension demands and developing a direct mail campaign full of baseless accusations and inaccuracies about my record on public safety. Yesterday’s flyer is perhaps the most egregious scare tactic yet, indicating that high-risk sex offenders are at large because of the council’s action when the reality is that many of the men listed are already behind bars.
More than ever, the circumstances surrounding today’s agreement demonstrates that these fliers have little to do with increasing public safety and everything to do with impacting my campaign as the only candidate for mayor to release a plan that would fix the pension system and by reigning in benefits and eliminating spiking.
Now that their claims have been proven false, I call on the Omaha Police Union to put an end to these attacks. I would also ask that fellow candidate Hal Daub, who recently indicated his agreement with these claims, to publicly denounce the false and unsubstantiated content of these mailings.
Leavenworth Street requested a statement from the Daub campaign, and at the time of posting had not yet received a response. We will post an update when we receive it.
I don’t like the idea of that kind of an approach to an issue. But my record is fair game for my opponents.
So you have to decide if the issue’s important. I think its a very important issue.
Grand Island, Lincoln, La Vista, Bellevue, all have the rule.
This can’t be twisted to say “the Police Union doesn’t like Jim Vokal”. He voted for their police contract. He voted for “spiking” — they’re not mad at him about that.
They want the city to be safer, that’s their job. And when you’ve got 70% recidivism with sexual predators, high profile risk people, living in neighborhoods where kids walk.
The police don’t want to be accused of not doing their job by not having the tools and the resources as Sheriff Dunning asked them to deploy — because the Sheriff has 43 sheriffs on road patrol in the outside-the-city-limits part of our city. They don’t patrol the City of Omaha — that’s the Omaha Police’s job under our joint agreement with the Sheriff.
So, I think the issue is important here. And what your position is on the issue has nothing to do with overtime or all these other things that are being obfuscated here.
If I get to be Mayor, I’m going to ask the City Council to reconsider that decision. You handle “spiking” in the negotiations. You handle overtime by telling the Chief if you have a drive-by shooting, you handle overtime by taking it out of something else and keep your budget balanced.
Talking about finances is trying to cover up the record that’s clear.
Let’s talk about the issue: Are you for or against giving the police every single bit of resource and authority they need to deal with people who are repeat offenders and dangerous people that live in our community.
I think the vote was wrong. I commend Garry Gernandt and Jim Suttle for voting for it. They voted correctly for the safety of our city.
And frankly, according to the Nebraska Administrative Code, regarding Sexual Offender Registration, while it is the State Patrol’s duty to verify that a convicted sexual offender is on the Registry, it states:
“Local law enforcement agencies are requested, but not required, to periodically verify that the registrant is still living at the listed address.”
“Any law enforcement agency, court, or state agency finding evidence of Violations of the Act or these regulations may take any authorized law enforcement action.”
So, as near as we can tell, that “request” is still in effect. And Omaha Police can still do it, with or without the City Council’s amendment.