Schmaderer Stands By Firing Of Officer In Bear Heels Death

One day after former Omaha Police Officer Scotty Payne was found not guilty of felony assault, Police Chief Todd Schmaderer says he stands by his decision to fire Payne and three other officers involved in the in-custody death of Zachary Bear Heels, a mentally ill man.

"I'm going to maintain my position of termination on the officers and it will go to an arbitration system," Schmaderer says.  "The arbitrator could give the officers their jobs back and if they do, we will prepare them to be Omaha Police officers again."  The Omaha Police Officers Association president says they will help Payne get his job back during the arbitration process. 

Bear Heels died in June, 2017 after police officers detained and repeatedly punched and shocked him with a Taser outside the Bucky's at 60th and Center.   He later died at a hospital. "The Omaha Police Department didn't handle that call very well," Schmaderer says.

After Bear Heels death, Schmaderer says the department increased training for dealing with mentally ill people they encounter.  "We didn't wait for this trial to make any changes we wanted to make," Schmaderer says.  "We've made additional movements with training and supervision and improving this police department after the incident."

Schmaderer says they have also revisited their Taser and use-of-force protocols.   "There were no winners in this. This was a very hard time for the City of Omaha, Omaha Police Department, Officer Payne and the Bear Heels family for sure."

Schmaderer says despite the increased training, the police department can't bear the entire reponsibility of helping the mentally ill.  "The root causes of mental health are not being addressed.  That should be addressed before it even gets to the Omaha Police Department, and as a society I would hope that we realize that at some point."

Schmaderer says they deal with mentally ill individuals several times each day.  "You never hear about it, because it's handled appropriately."  

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