Accusations of racism over a viral video posted by the Omaha police union have added to an already tense relationship between the Omaha police department and the city’s black community following accusations that Omaha police officers used excessive force against an African-American family over a parking ticket.
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against 32 members of the Omaha police, accusing them of excessive force in a widely publicized, outrageous incident that was caught on tape by a neighbor last year. As a result of the tape, six officers were fired. In the video from March 21, a police officer can be seen throwing a man to the ground and hitting him several times, while a dozen other officers storm into a home across the street to chase a man who asked them why they were abusing the other man.
This latest outrage swirls around a video that was first posted on the Facebook page of a man that the Omaha Police Officers Association (OPOA) described as “a local thug” when it reposted the video, causing it to go viral. The union called the video “Thug Cycle,” on its website and Facebook page, calling the “heartbreaking and sickening footage” an example of the “terrible cycle of violence and thuggery” that local police officers battle.
The video shows an African-American toddler in a diaper pushing over a chair, waving his middle finger, and repeating the obscenities and racial slurs that adult male and female voices, heard in the background, encourage him to say. The adults laugh each time the child parrots the profanities.
“Shut up, bitch,” he says at one point.
“Now while we didn’t see anything in this video that is blatantly ‘illegal,’ ” the union wrote, “we sure did see a lot that is flat out immoral and completely unhealthy for this little child from a healthy upbringing standpoint.”
But while the contents of the video prompted head-shaking and outrage, particularly in the black community, there was also consternation at the actions and language of the police union.
The ACLU of Nebraska said the union’s use of “racially charged language” was “very disconcerting.”
“Officers should be working to build a culture where anyone feels comfortable calling law enforcement,” ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Becki Brenner said in a statement. “The manner in which the Officers Association has discussed this incident has done nothing but further erode community trust and reinforce the need for independent oversight, trainings, and other reforms.”
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But Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer tried to distance his agency from the controversy, saying he has no control over the website and Facebook page of the union.
“With that background and understanding, I want to make it explicit and clear that the views expressed on the OPOA Facebook page do not necessarily reflect the official stance of the Omaha Police Department,” Schmaderer said. “I strongly disagree with any postings that may cause a divide in our community or an obstacle to police community relations.”
Meanwhile, the toddler’s mother has come to her baby’s defense.
“He had a clean diaper, the house was clean and like they said, kids curse, every kid does it,” the mother told CNN affiliate KETV in an interview. Since the mother is 16 and considered a juvenile, she was not identified.
“He’s a smart little boy. All that cussing that he did, he doesn’t do that,” she said. “Somebody told him to do that. My son doesn’t do that. I don’t allow it.”
She said a friend of her brother filmed the video while she was in another room.
“He was wrong for doing that … posting the video up and getting us into this situation,” she said. “Everybody that thinks I’m a bad mother, I’m not. I’m a good mother to my son. I teach him a lot. He’s very smart.”