Legislature’s Judiciary Committee Wraps Up 16 Hours Of Policing Hearings

The second day of the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee’s hearings for community input on policing, law enforcement misconduct, and racial injustice did last quite as long as the first but it came close.

After hearing from nearly 100 individuals over 8-1/2 hours Monday in Omaha, the panel listened for about 7-1/2 hours yesterday in Lincoln as roughly 80 people offered the same passionate combination of personal experiences with systemic racism – primarily in Lincoln and Omaha – and ideas on how to address the issue.

Many said they appreciated the committee being there to listen and wanted to believe it would produce change, but were skeptical of the senators and their colleagues willingness to do what is needed. Several identified several bills currently in the legislature they felt would help, but others said dramatic and sweeping changes are required.

Committee Chairman Steve Lathrop said he didn’t know how anybody could sit through what the panel heard over the 2 days and not have concerns over the relationships between law enforcement and the communities of color while Lincoln Senator Adam Morfeld called it some of the most compelling testimony he has heard in his 6 years in the Legislature.

The legislature will have 17 days left in this year’s session when it resumes July 20. Only priority bills will be debated and only one of those, Senator Ernie Chambers’ requirement of 2 hours a year of racial profiling anti-bias training a year for law enforcement, addresses the issues raised at the hearings.

It is on final reading and Lathrop said while it’s likely to pass, significant legislative movement on the policing and racism issues won’t happen until next year although interim studies on different aspects could start in August. He also said some changes can still be made this year by city councils and county boards.