(Omaha, NE) -- The Omaha Police Officers Association addresses staffing shortages and new contract negotiations with the city.
In a statement released Monday morning, the OPOA thanks Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer for recent public statements recognizing the ongoing staffing crisis within the Omaha Police Department, and for the commitment from city leaders to reopen contract negotiations with the OPOA in an effort to raise officer wages. "We appreciate the recognition from Mayor Stothert and Chief Schmaderer that there is a crisis and that steps must be taken to address the growing law enforcement wage disparities between Omaha and surrounding communities," OPOA President Tony Conner said. "Without reopening the contract and renegotiating wages, this crisis will grow and further jeopardize our ability to recruit and retain a professional police force."
OPOA says currently, the city is 108 officers short of the authorized strength of 906 full-time, sworn officers allocated in the city budget. the union says that is primarily due to an increasingly high number of resignations and early retirements of officers taking higher-wage positions with other agencies or from the private sector.
The union says additionally, applications for new officer recruits have decreased dramatically in the last ten years. They say that number has dropped from 1,835 applicants in 2013 to just 342 applicants in 2023. Political volatility and threats to officer safety in recent years have certainly led to reduced interest in law enforcement careers, Conner said, but much of the attrition is due primarily to low starting wages for Omaha officers compared to other agencies in the state. "An officer recruit in Lincoln receives a starting wage that's 32% higher than an officer recruit in Omaha," Conner said. "In fact, Omaha is behind at least 15 other law enforcement agencies around the state in terms of starting wages for recruits. These wage disparities make it near impossible for Omaha to compete for qualified candidates and have contributed greatly to the current crisis. "
"Throughout this staffing crisis, Omaha officers have continued to work long, hard hours to ensure the safety of our citizens and deliver the standard of law enforcement taxpayers expect and deserve," Conner said. "We are hopeful these negotiations will provide solutions to the wage and recruitment disparities we are currently experiencing, and begin to maize Omaha competitive again for top recruits."