The Omaha Police Officers Association is defending itself against criticism that it antagonized the local African-American community after it posted disturbing video of a black toddler hurling obscenities and sticking up his middle finger to the camera.
The 2-year-old shown in the video and three other children have been removed from the home and placed in protective custody, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Police have said that they acted out of concern for the children's safety. The Omaha city prosecutor’s office said that it has determined that no crimes were committed in the video.
The police union posted the video to its website on Tuesday, with the headline, “Heartbreaking Video Shows ‘The Thug Cycle’ Continuing.” A Facebook post linking to the video has received more than 400 comments. The police group claimed that a "loyal follower" tipped them off to the video that was posted on a “local thug’s” public Facebook page. (“We refuse to give this thug any notoriety or attention, and as much as we would love to publicly shame him, we will keep his identity private,” the association wrote along with the video.)
“She was outraged about what the thug had just posted for all to see,” the association wrote. “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 unedited video shows the child calling an adult out of view of the footage a “b---- a-- n-----“ and repeated “suck my d---“ to a woman who asked him to use the phrase. He’s also seen responding “You a ho, b----!” to an adult and giving the middle finger to the camera. Police haven't released the identity of the children's parents.
The Omaha Police Officers Association defended its decision to post the controversial video, saying that it wanted to show the local community that the “cycle of violence” is continuing and that the “police alone” can't stop it.
Willie Hamilton, president of the community activist group Black Men United, said the police union "crossed a line by doing this."
"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," Hamilton told CNN.
The Nebraska branch of the American Civil Liberties Union also slammed the police officers' association for using the word “thug” multiple times and for the racially charged discussion that occurred on the union’s Facebook page.
"Officers should be working to build a culture where anyone feels comfortable calling law enforcement," ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Becki Brenner said in a statement. "The manner in which the Officers Association has discussed this incident has done nothing but further erode community trust and reinforce the need for independent oversight, trainings, and other reforms."