Lost amid concerns regarding collective bargaining rights of the Nebraska State Patrol, a bill aimed at reforming the state’s leading law enforcement agency will add accountability to every other police department and sheriff’s office in the state.
The heavily amended LB791, carried by Crete Sen. Laura Ebke at Gov. Pete Ricketts’ request, is scheduled for final reading Wednesday, contains a key section that would give the Nebraska Crime Commission and individual agencies more information on hand when making hiring decisions. Namely, it provides specific information on officers who’ve been fired or resigned to avoid termination.
Law enforcement is most effective when the public has trust in the officers carrying out its vital mission. When rumors swirl that an agency has circled the wagons to protect a possible bad actor in its ranks, that trust may erode – to the detriment of public safety.
Much of the attention has rightly centered on the highest levels of the State Patrol, following former Superintendent Col. Brad Rice’s high-profile firing last summer.
But the provisions requiring agencies seeking to hire new officers to request reports on why prospective officers were terminated or resigned instead of being fired will have far more effect on municipal law enforcement offices. No longer can officers facing discipline at their current employer jump ship without the new agency being aware of the conduct alleged.
Without serving as de facto scarlet letters to these officers, Ebke’s bill offers the administrators the leeway to make the most informed hiring decisions they can.
Policing the police isn’t easy work, but it’s more necessary than ever. An under-the-radar provision is set to greatly improve that process in Nebraska.