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The Legislature’s march through committee work continued this week with full-day hearings, allowing us to transition to full-day floor debate in March.
On February 3rd, the Judiciary Committee held hearings on ten different bills related to our law enforcement system. Many of these bills raised concerns for me and many of our law enforcement officers in District 1, and I wanted to highlight one of them in this week’s column.
LB 51, introduced by Senator Lathrop, would make many changes to our law enforcement statutes and is based on extensive consultation on best practices used by the Omaha Police Department. While I certainly appreciate the goal of the bill to offer a better legal framework for our brave men and women in law enforcement, I share the same concerns that many of our local law enforcement officials expressed upon reading this bill. LB 51 changes the basic qualifications of law enforcement officers, requires accreditation of law enforcement agencies, and adds thousands of dollars in unfunded mandates for our local sheriffs’ departments in rural Nebraska.
First, LB 51 requires all law enforcement officers to successfully complete a law enforcement certification course from a training academy before becoming a certified officer. Currently, rural law enforcement agencies, like the ones in our district, allow their law enforcement officers to be conditionally certified. This means that an agency can hire an officer on the condition that the officer receives training as soon as possible after being hired. The wait time for entrance into the statewide law enforcement training facility is around six months. Our law enforcement departments simply wouldn’t have the manpower to operate without conditionally certified officers. LB 51 also requires agencies to adopt new procedures that would place a huge financial burden on the law enforcement agencies in our district. If this bill passes, each candidate wishing to be a law enforcement officer would have to undergo a psychological evaluation to determine if they are fit for duty, which would come at a cost to the agency. Paired with a near doubling of required training hours for our officers, this would create thousands of dollars in unfunded mandates for our law enforcement agencies. Though the goals of this bill are noble, the current language of LB 51 simply isn’t practical for rural Nebraska.
LB 51 was one of over a dozen bills introduced in 2021 to change our law enforcement statutes. My decisions on each of these bills will be guided by the real-life implications for our law enforcement agencies and minimizing costs to the taxpayers.
As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.