Law enforcement standards increased

Lawmakers passed a bill May 20 that increases certification and training standards for Nebraska law enforcement officers.

Sen. Steve Lathrop
Sen. Steve Lathrop

Under LB51, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, the current 20 hours of annual continuing education required of all officers increases to 28 hours in 2022, and 32 hours in 2023 and subsequent years.

The bill requires a psychological evaluation of any applicant who has not worked previously in law enforcement to determine fitness for duty. Applicants seeking entry-level law enforcement certification will be required to complete de-escalation training related to mental health behaviors, substance abuse, anti-bias, implicit bias and crisis communication.

An applicant seeking certification as a law enforcement officer will be required to testify under oath that their certification has never been revoked or suspended in another jurisdiction and they have not been separated from employment or disciplined for serious misconduct or a violation of their oath of office, code of ethics or statutory duties.

LB51 also authorizes the appointment of noncertified conditional officers, pending acceptance into a formal law enforcement training program. These officers will discharge their duties under the direct supervision of a field training officer and be restricted from carrying a firearm.

A noncertified conditional officer may, only with direct supervision and guidance from a training officer, ride in a marked police cruiser, make arrests, interview suspects, victims or witnesses or carry out other law enforcement functions. The bill places a 16-week restriction on a noncertified conditional officer’s service.

The Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice will prioritize smaller law enforcement agencies when awarding grants to offset the costs of accreditation and training.

LB51 also contains provisions of LB601, originally sponsored by Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney.

Those provisions require the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice to post information on its public website regarding law enforcement officers who have voluntarily surrendered their certification or had it revoked, been convicted of or pleaded guilty or no contest to a felony or Class I misdemeanor or been found to have engaged in serious misconduct.

LB51 also prohibits a police officer from intentionally using a chokehold on a person, except when deadly force is authorized.

Similarly, an officer is prohibited from using a carotid restraint control hold — a method of rendering a person unconscious by restricting blood flow by compressing the carotid arteries in the neck — on any person unless the officer believes the individual would cause death or bodily injury to others or deadly force is authorized and the officer is trained in the restraint technique.

Finally, the bill requires the commission to develop accreditation standards for law enforcement agencies. Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, the commission will publish a list of unaccredited agencies annually. An unaccredited law enforcement agency will be ineligible to receive loans, grant funds or donations from the commission until it achieves accreditation.

LB51 passed on a 41-1 vote.

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