County sheriff candidate requirements expanded, advanced

A bill requiring county sheriff candidates to be certified law enforcement officers upon filing for office was amended and advanced from general file March 4.

Sen. Teresa Ibach
Sen. Teresa Ibach

LB894, introduced by Sumner Sen. Teresa Ibach, would require county sheriff candidates to possess a diploma issued by the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice before running for office. Additionally, upon filing to run for county sheriff, candidates would need to submit a standardized letter from the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center director certifying the issuance of their certificate or diploma.

The measure also would require newly elected county sheriffs to attend and complete a sheriff’s certification course and obtain certification within eight months of taking office. County sheriffs elected to office before July 19, 1980, would be exempt.

Ibach said under current law, candidates for county sheriff do not have to be certified in law enforcement and have an eight-month grace period to obtain certification once taking office. Last year, she said, an uncertified individual was elected as county sheriff in Dundy County and failed to obtain certification, which resulted in a recall election that removed the sheriff from office.

“It is my hope that with the enactment of LB894, situations like this can be prevented in the future,” Ibach said. “I believe that it is in the best interest of the state, the county and the citizens of Nebraska that a person serving as sheriff be a certified law enforcement officer prior to election.”

A Judiciary Committee amendment, adopted 39-0, would replace the bill and clarify that sheriffs appointed by a county board also must possess a law enforcement officer certificate.

Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne offered an amendment to the committee amendment to add provisions of his LB918 that would permit individuals who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status to receive law enforcement training and certification.

Rural areas of the state need help recruiting law enforcement, Wayne said, and allowing DACA recipients to become law enforcement officers could alleviate workforce shortages.

Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood spoke in opposition to Wayne’s amendment and expressed concern over individuals with temporary resident status being allowed to serve as law enforcement.

“I think law enforcement officers should be a citizen of the United States when they take an oath to uphold the Constitution,” he said.

Dunbar Sen. Julie Slama spoke in favor of the amendment, saying people with temporary resident status should be able to serve their communities if they choose. If a person’s DACA status is revoked, she said, they would no longer be eligible to serve in law enforcement.

“If they [DACA recipients] want to walk the thin blue line and protect our communities, I think we should let them work toward that goal,” Slama said.

Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney offered an amendment that would require sheriffs in Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy counties to have at least a four-year degree in criminal justice or law enforcement. He said college-educated law enforcement officers are 40% less likely to use force and nearly 30% less likely to fire their weapons in the line of duty.

“I think college, in some cases, builds better leaders,” McKinney said. “I’m not saying college is the end-all-be-all, but I think it’s definitely helpful for people going into law enforcement.”

The amendment failed on a vote of 10-19.

Following the 36-8 adoption of Wayne’s amendment, LB894 advanced to select file 42-2.

Bookmark and Share