Police Union Under Fire For ‘Thug Cycle’ Video Post Of African-American Child
Omaha, Neb. (CBS ST. LOUIS) — The Omaha Police Officers’ Association is being criticized for posting a video of an African-American toddler using extreme profanity and repeated racial slurs as evidence of the “thug cycle” affecting children in the area.
The diapered child is berated by use of the “n-word,” which the child yells back at the adults filming, while holding his middle finger up at the cell-phone camera operator. The video opens with the camera operator yelling, “You a b—-, “and the first of many uses of the n-word. The police union blog notes that a subsequent comment from the Facebook video post mentions that the child is the nephew of the man filming.
An adult female voice is also heard making comments in the background of the video. The OPOA post warned the video will make viewers “angry,” and that it contains “extreme profanity.” The video also shows the video operator repeatedly asking the child to make sexually suggestive comments.
John Wells, the Omaha police union president, described the video to Omaha.com as an example of the “thuggery” that is taking place in the Omaha community.
The police union’s website detailed the video on the blog: “We here at OmahaPOA.com viewed the video and we knew that despite the fact that it is sickening, heartbreaking footage, we have an obligation to share it to continue to educate the law abiding public about the terrible cycle of violence and thuggery that some young innocent children find themselves helplessly trapped in.”
“Now while we didn’t see anything in this video that is blatantly ‘illegal’, we sure did see a lot that is flat out immoral and completely unhealthy for this little child from a healthy upbringing standpoint,” reads the blog.
“Unfortunately, there is no crime against raising your kids that way,” Wells told Omaha.com. “It is quite the snapshot into violent crime culture happening in Omaha.”
Describing the use of the word “thug” in the blog’s context, Wells told Gawker: “We use that as a general term on our Facebook page,” but the term could be substituted by a variety of other terms: “abnormal, antisocial, criminal.”
In reference to the video creator and alleged uncle, Wells told Gawker, “I don’t know that he’s a gangbanger … he mentions 29th Street, which is a local Bloods gang here.”
Executive Director of Black Men United in Omaha, Willie Hamilton, told Omaha.com that while he doesn’t condone the behavior in the video, the police union should not use the child in the context of thug violence.
“The police actually have a website that is perpetuating mistrust and anger, and I think that is what it is meant to do,” Hamilton told Omaha.com. “I thought posting the video was crossing the line. To use that incident to say that our kids are going to grow up and be thugs is far-reaching and insensitive. We are talking about a child that hasn’t even gone to school yet.”
Wells said that the union didn’t intend “to belittle anyone by sharing the video,” and that the police union had forwarded the video to Omaha Police Department’s Youth Services Division for evaluation.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska filed an “excessive-force” lawsuit against the Omaha Police Department on behalf of the boy’s family on Monday, CNN reports. The suit cites the police union’s “racially charged language,” which the ACLU found to be “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 written 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.”
In a statement issued Tuesday, Police Chief Todd Schmaderer looked to provide distance between the OPOA post and the department.
“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.”