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City Council Votes to Delay Police Auditor Decision

{A href="mailto:jhong@kptm.com"}Julie Hong

OMAHA (KPTM)- Omaha's city council voted yet again to delay a decision to fill the city's public safety auditor position. Following weeks of discussion, the council voted to take the next six weeks to tweak the law that's already on the books outlining the job and find a way to fund it.

It's out with the new and in with the old. "We're going to try to start over with a new ordinance," says Councilman Jim Vokal. Vokal's plan to replace the city's public safety auditor with a new independent citizen advocate is taking a back seat. Instead Vokal said Tuesday he'll work with community leaders to improve the current law.

The change of heart came after members of Omaha Together One Community or OTOC offered suggestions to improve the existing law. "It is a good ordinance and there's no need to go back and start from scratch," says group spokesman Pastor Michael Wiliams. The group is proposing a number of suggestions. Ideas Pastor Williams says would fund the position and make the office more independent and transparent. "People need to feel free to go and complain."

Dr. Sam Walker, a retired professor of criminal justice at UNO says it's a step in the right direction to restore police oversight. "We gain some time and I think there will be time for consideration about how to preserve that ordinance and strengthen it." Community advocate with Omahan's for Justice Alliance, Willie Hamilton just hopes the council will be open to hear ideas beyond just one citizen's group. "I think we should fund the ordinance and think about the suggestions not only from OTOC but Omaha's for Justice Alliance has put forth."

Councilman Vokal is expected to meet with community leaders in the next couple of weeks. And while he agreed to revisit the existing law, there was no action taken to take his proposal of an independent citizen advocate off the table yet. Critics of that plan say it wasn't independent from the city.

Some of the suggestions coming from OTOC include how reports and complaints are filed and where people can go. Pastor Williams says the auditor must have an office outside the city and county building. He says it's also important to fully fund the office which includes the auditor and support of a secretary and investigator.

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