The video was posted by the Omaha Police Officers Association under a title, “The Thug Cycle,” that some found offensive.
“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,” the police union said in its post, adding that the video came from “a local thug’s public Facebook page.”
Investigators said they found nothing criminal in the video, which shows the child making obscene gestures to adults who hurl racist and obscene comments at the boy and prompt him to repeat crude phrases.
“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,” the police union said in its post with the video.
The union’s president, Sgt. Jeff Wells, also said one of the adults mentions a local street gang in the video.
The child was taken into custody Wednesday along with three other children by Omaha police’s Child Victim Unit and the Nebraska Child Protective Services.
“That is why when we talk about the culture, the criminal culture, that this is to try to break the cycle and deal with the culture of violence and the culture of gang activity,” Wells said.
But local civil rights activists said the police union’s post “crossed a line” in a city where officers’ treatment of minorities, who make up about a quarter of Omaha’s population, has led to lawsuits and criminal charges against a pair of cops and firings and reassignments of others in the past year.
“For them to take a video out of context — a 2-year-old who doesn’t have the brain capacity to know what’s going on — and to say that this child, because two adults acted inappropriately, is going to end up in a life of crime is totally inappropriate,” said Willie Hamilton, president of Black Men United.
Omaha’s police chief, Todd Schmaderer, said Tuesday that the union’s website and Facebook page were not associated with the police department and that he has little authority over their public statements.
But the union turned over the video to the department’s child victim unit for investigation alongside child-welfare agencies.
“Hopefully, the impact is, it gives law-abiding citizens what law enforcement deals with on a daily basis, and it sort of throws back the blinders that these type of problems are going on,” Wells said.
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