Nebraska state senators consider two police reform proposals

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — A couple of bills in the Legislature are pushing for changes to law enforcement in Nebraska.

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on them Wednesday.

Sen. John Cavanaugh of Omaha introduced a bill that would prohibit use of deception with people under 18. 

“This is a question before this Legislature about whether we want to have our law enforcement lying to kids to get the answers,” Cavanaugh said. 

One example of deception is when an officer lies about the evidence police have to get someone to confess. 

Supporters of the bill say children are two to three times more likely than adults to falsely confess to a crime. 

“We all want justice, but wrongful convictions are not justice,” said Jennifer Craven, a law student. “Lying is not a good way to find the truth.”

In Nebraska, there is not a law that requires an adult to be present when a minor is being interrogated.

Many argue that kids might not know what their rights are. 

Those opposing the bill say law enforcement in our state is trained to use this practice only as a last resort, especially with kids. 

“In my experience, we use it sparingly,” said Matt Barrall, vice president of the Nebraska Fraternal Order of Police. “However, there are times, like anything else, that it can become necessary.”

Another bill regarding law enforcement was introduced by Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha.

The bill mandates the state’s largest cities to create a police oversight committee made up of civilians.

It would also require a public list of information about police misconduct.  

Those supporting the bill say Nebraska and the U.S. have failed to pass meaningful legislation to hold police accountable. 

“I believe we need the police, without a doubt, but the current method of policing is not working,” said Sherman Wells of Omaha.

The bill would also require a bachelor’s degree for law enforcement certification.  

Opponents say requiring a bachelor’s degree for officers would only made recruitment harder. 

“We support training requirements for all commission officers, however, disagree with the requirement of a degree,” Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins said. “This requirement disregards the value of life experience and limits candidates to those who can afford a four-year degree.”

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