ACLU Sues City Of Omaha, 32 Police Officers For Use Of Excessive Force, Warrantless Search And Seizure

from the slow-day-crime-wise-in-Omaha dept

If there’s any question as to whether the officers subduing Octavius Johnson (who was apparently asking why a vehicle was being towed) applied excessive force (looks like the officer gets a few swings in before other witnesses arrive), it was answered by the 20+ cops who stormed the house (without a warrant, obviously) in order to seize and destroy the footage of the arrest contained in Jaquez Johnson’s cell phone. The fact that their wheelchair-bound aunt was thrown to the ground during this altercation is nothing more than a side effect of her inadvertently being between dozens of cops and the person they were pursuing.

The cops that stormed the Johnson house to destroy evidence failed to comprehend that everyone has a camera these days — like, say, the neighbor across the street who obtained this footage of the excessive force and the blitzkrieg of Omaha cops that followed. has a timeline of the incident, which begins at 5:23 pm when an officer responds to a call to check on an unoccupied vehicle. Two hours later, the aunt is on the way to the hospital while three of the Johnson brothers are being booked on a variety of charges. All three have one charge in common: the rather meaningless “obstructing an officer.”

The neighbor’s recording made it impossible for the Omaha PD to sweep this under the rug (not that it didn’t try). The officers’ own admission that they had seized Jaquez Johnson’s phone and erased his recording made it impossible for the department to pretend everything that happened was purely legal. In the end, four officers were fired for their involvement in this situation. As PINAC reported back in May, even the county attorney was unable to find anything less than damning to say about the incident.

“The conduct inside after the officers went inside (the house) is much more disturbing” than what’s on the YouTube video.

Kleine on memory card: He said the knowledge that the memory card was taken by Officer James Kinsella “comes from Officer Kinsella himself and what he said to other officers.”

Kleine: ”The officer’s conduct in taking that memory card is so out of line, it’s criminal conduct. We don’t know what’s on that memory card” and that’s what we want to find out.

On OPD trying to hide misbehavior: ”It’s of tremendous concern to the chief and it’s a concern to us. We can’t have this type of conduct. It’s a betrayal of public trust.”

Now the ACLU is joining the Johnson family in suing the city of Omaha, along with the 32 police officers involved.

Members of an Omaha family filed a lawsuit in federal court today alleging that excessive force and a warrantless search and seizure were used in response to a parking incident in March 2013. The Johnson family has never received compensation for the damages to their property or their medical expenses resulting from the incident. All charges against the Johnsons were dropped. An internal investigation resulted in the termination of four officers and criminal charges being brought against two of the officers for either tampering with evidence or being an accessory.

Unbelievably, the entire situation was ignited by nothing more than a parking violation. By the end of it, the Johnson house had been swarmed by Omaha police officers, something the ACLU claims is not simply a misuse of public funds but a clear violation of citizens’ rights.

“Despite the fact that no crime, drugs, or weapons were involved, more than twenty officers arrived at the Johnson’s home, invaded their privacy, confiscated their property and unnecessarily injured four members of the family,” said cooperating attorney Diana Vogt. “You do not lose your right to be treated with respect by law enforcement simply because of where you live in Omaha or the color of your skin.”

“Pulling over twenty officers away from other parts of the city should sound an alarm for taxpayers,” said ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. “Omaha Police have already been warned by the ACLU about their failure to respect the rights of those filming law enforcement. This incident further reinforces that independent oversight is needed to help evaluate training practices and provide for responses when officers depart from their training and standards.”

According to the ACLU’s statement, the Omaha PD’s actions have generated several reports of officer misconduct and racial bias over the past few years. The PD also seems to have a problem understanding that citizens have a right to record on-duty officers. The ACLU hopes this lawsuit will help change the PD’s underlying culture.

In the lawsuit, the Johnsons ask for monetary damages for their medical bills, damages to property, lost time from work and other expenses. Additionally, the ACLU hopes for punitive damages against four officers along with mandatory training for all OPD officers in de-escalation and First Amendment rights of those filming police.

The firing of the four officers directly involved with the destruction of evidence is a good start. The fact that this escalated from a parking violation to 20 officers storming a house is a clear indictment of the mindset guiding Omaha’s law enforcement entities. At no point did anyone try to defuse the situation or ask themselves why 32 officers were needed to arrest one man disputing his vehicle being towed. Notably, the first call for backup went out solely because “people were coming out of the house.” If that’s all it takes to shake an officer’s confidence, any arrest happening in public is going to be a problem — both for the skittish officer(s) and for any citizens who happen to be in the area, especially if they’re carrying cell phones or cameras.

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Comments on “ACLU Sues City Of Omaha, 32 Police Officers For Use Of Excessive Force, Warrantless Search And Seizure”

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out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Police breaking laws in NO WAY justifies Kim Dotcom breaking laws!

Totally stoopid false justification ya made up there. It’s SO typical of Techdirt’s wacky fanboys to reach for ANY way to justify taking what don’t belong to ’em.

Where fanboys assert that multi-billion industries are doing it all wrong!


silverscarcat (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What New Zealand law did Kim Dotcom break? As far as I know, he followed NZ law, and he followed DMCA requests and, hmm, the only time he DIDN’T take something down was because, gasp horror of horrors, he was COMPLYING with the police to keep up the infringing file so that they could get someone else.

out_of_the_blue just hates it when the lies of the Copyfraud Alliance are exposed.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Police breaking laws in NO WAY justifies Kim Dotcom breaking laws!

“Where fanboys assert that multi-billion industries are doing it all wrong!”

Let me see if I have this right:

1. If multi-billion dollar industries are doing it, it’s correct….


2. The rich are horrible people and we should take all their money away.

You’re the kind of enigma that doesn’t deserve an answer….

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Police breaking laws in NO WAY justifies Kim Dotcom breaking laws!

There’s no enigma or puzzle, #2 is nothing more than an act, while #1 is what blue really believes.

Words are cheap, actions are what matters, and while blue may constantly claim to hate the ‘rich’, other than his/her Google fixation(which could cure cancer and world hunger and blue would still be claiming they were satan incarnate), every time a rich company, group, or especially one of the *AA’s get caught doing something underhanded, illegal, or quasi-legal, you can be sure blue will show up in an attempt to deflect attention away from, or defend, them.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Police breaking laws in NO WAY justifies Kim Dotcom breaking laws!

Plus last time I checked the top10 US industries the overwhelming majority were tech companies. Which obviously translating in real multi-billion revenues as opposed to the copyright morons that actually do get into the billions realm but not enough to make it ‘multi’.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Police breaking laws in NO WAY justifies Kim Dotcom breaking laws!

In terms of industry, entertainment seems to fall around 11th (

In terms of company, the biggest **AA member I could see on a quick glance was Disney at #66, though I might have missed a conglomerate owner somewhere. (

So yeah, all this sycophantic behaviour isn’t even sucking up to the profits of the most successful companies and industries, let alone justification for trying to destroy the businesses of more successful companies in the process.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Police breaking laws in NO WAY justifies Kim Dotcom breaking laws!

“It’s SO typical of Techdirt’s wacky fanboys to reach for ANY way to justify taking what don’t belong to ’em”

Could you please highlight where Ninja justifies taking things that don’t belong to him as I think I missed that bit? (please take note of the spellings of these English words).

Also its worth noting that KDC has yet to be proven to have done anything illegal (that’s how it works by the way, innocent until proven guilty).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The irony, it burns!

…reach for ANY way to justify taking what don’t belong to ’em.

You mean like when Dotcom’s mansion was illegally raided, a whole bunch of stuff was illegally taken, and all his assets were frozen and therefor taken from him? That kind of ‘taking what don’t belong to ’em’? Or does it only count when you like the person/group?

Also, regarding your tagline/cheerleading act for those businesses you ‘claim’ to hate, a few numbers:

Digital(Record industry)
US Recording Industry Revenues from Online: $1.1 billion (2006), $1.7 billion (2007), $2.2 billion (2008), $2.5 billion (2009), $2.8 billion (2010), $3.0 billion (2011)

Physical(Record industry)
US Recording Industry Revenues from Physical: $9.7 billion (2006), $9.1 billion (2007), $8.0 billion (2008), $7.1 billion (2009), $6.4 billion (2010), $5.7 billion (2011)

US Digital Music Revenues : $1.9 billion (2006), $2.8 billion (2007), $3.7 billion (2008), $4.5 billion (2009), $5.2 billion (2010), $5.7 billion (2011)

‘Billion dollar industries’, for now, if those groups you love and adore so much don’t get their act together, it’s only a matter of time until they are thrown in the dustbin and replaced by those that can adapt.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Police breaking laws in NO WAY justifies Kim Dotcom breaking laws!

Nobody justified Dotcom’s alleged crimes, they only made a comment implying criticism of the over-the-top military-style raid on an alleged non-violent criminal. Even if he is 100% guilty of the crimes he was accused of committing, this doesn’t absolve the clearly documented violations of rights and laws committed by the enforcement officials themselves nor the ridiculous waste of resources in the capture.

Yet again – ootb is so averse to reality, he has to create a fictional opinion for others in order to attack them. Sadly, the new year didn’t provide medication for you to suppress your fantasies and hallucinations.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Police breaking laws in NO WAY justifies Kim Dotcom breaking laws!

I’ll reply to you this time.

Where fanboys assert that multi-billion industries are doing it all wrong!

Nokia was insanely huge, had the unquestionable lead in the mobile market. And they were doing it wrong. It’s just that nobody was doing it right to overcome Nokia.

Just because you make billions because of being an established industry it does not mean you are doing it right. Or even if you did it right at the beginning if you fail to adapt to new developments the right will inevitably become the wrong.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Police breaking laws in NO WAY justifies Kim Dotcom breaking laws!

Indeed. Just because you do the right thing to get to the top, that doesn’t mean that you’re doing the right thing to stay there forever. Criticising the latter in terms of a currently successful company doesn’t mean you’re denying the reality of the former. Market conditions and competition change constantly, and you never stay successful by pretending that you can tread water forever.

Yet another basic logical concept that ootb fails to comprehend, rendering his argument a strawman at best. What a shock.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Police breaking laws in NO WAY justifies Kim Dotcom breaking laws!

My dad has a nice book on that sort of subject of well established companies doing it wrong. It had three examples it covered fairly in depth.

One was a manufacturer of heavy digging equipment. Backhoes and the like that used cables. They basically ignored changes in the market and technology until one day hydraulic backhoes improved to the point that the two began competing for the same market demand, and the cable technology lost out big time to the hydraulic technology.

So yeah, established, successful companies can totally screw up and be doing it all wrong when technology changes the market.

Dave says:

Re: Re: Re: Police breaking laws in NO WAY justifies Kim Dotcom breaking laws!

What has Dotcom got to do with this particular article? Typical OOTB in trying to bring his mindless copyright rants and raves in to ANY item that is nothing to do with alleged piracy. I may be wrong but it’s my understanding that Mr. Dotcom has not been brought to trial, much less charged with anything, so it would appear that the accusation that he is “breaking laws” would appear to be totally unjustified, if not slanderous. If this comment were to appear during any trial outside of a courtroom, I would guess it might qualify for a judge’s attention. OOTB, do NOT set yourself up as judge and jury. This point always seems to escape whatever pea-sized remnant of a brain you appear to have.

angeli says:

Re: Re: Re:

Police did this to me raided my house as I just moved in it 1 week prior without warrant. Gave an excuse that a baby was being harmed. Had swat team and heli’s shining lights in my windows. Too many cops I couldn’t count. I and my other half was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Had no furniture at that time, to hear pounding on my door. They treated us just like that. Catch was they found NOTHING and asked where the baby is. I told them there is no babies yet. I was 4mths pregnant with twins. They left doors all the way open, and broke items,and made such a seen. I was so angry at the columbus, oh police department.

That One Guy (profile) says:

12 police cars worth of officers for two people… ‘Pathetic’ would be putting it mildly.

I do have to wonder though, did the neighbor who’s video provided such solid evidence receive a ‘visit’ or two one it became clear just who’d filmed the police playing ‘SWAT team’? Given the cops broke into a house to steal a phone and delete evidence once, I’m sure it was only the fact that the video was already public that would have saved the person who took it a similar ‘visit’.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is why

I don’t know about a secure app in that manner, but if you have iCloud turned on in iOS7, it automatically syncs your photo stream (i.e. any new photos you take) to your iCloud account. I’m not sure if the default will work if you don’t have a wifi connection or how much delay there is between taking the photo and it uploading, but I bet some people have this activated without realising.

madasahatter (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Agree to an extent. I think the problem is often with the local leadership. If the local leadership will not tolerate the Gestapo tactics and behavior then these problems generally do not occur. However, if they do tolerate Gestapo tactics this what eventually results. Also, once trust is destroyed it takes a lot of effort to rebuild it.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

One thing I learned from Babylon 5 was that nobody looks in the mirror and sees a monster.

They all think they are doing something good. They have their rationalizations, false perceptions, etc. How do you combat that?

Gestapo tactics may be at least partly due to a strong “us vs them” mentality the police and its leadership have against the citizenry. This could be due to the fact that they work with some of the worst and most despicable human vermin that we don’t generally see.

The problem is that they then get to thinking that everyone who is not in the police department is part of “them”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

One thing I learned from Babylon 5 was that nobody looks in the mirror and sees a monster.

I think this is true for most. I can just imagine the people who work for the NSA feel they are doing their patriotic duty.

What I can’t understand, is how the police who closed down two hotels on the Blue Ridge Parkway and kicked an elderly couple out of their home during the government shutdown view themselves. I hope they see a monster every time they look in a mirror for the rest of their lives.

silverscarcat (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Despite how this is, cops call for backup because they have NO idea how the suspect will react.

Sometimes, like this time, they go completely overboard.

Othertimes, however, you have suspects who struggle and thrash and can end up hurting either themselves or the officer, so they want backup just in case.

I, myself, am around 6 feet tall and over 230 lbs. Do you think that it would be easy for a cop to take me down without resorting to their weapons if I put up a fight? And, let’s be frank, if someone throws a punch at you, unless you’ve got your hand on your weapon and are lightning fast, you don’t have time to pull out a billy club or mace.

If I start thrashing and struggling, I could do some real damage to a police officer if it was just one person.

Yes, it shouldn’t require more than 2, but sometimes you find people on PCP or are on some other drug and whatnot.

While that doesn’t excuse the actions of bad cops, you have to understand why cops end up in packs like they do. There was no need for this response level from them for a video though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The response to that incident was not the provision of backup, it was a gathering of a pack. Far too many cops arrived, either because there was no one controlling the response, or because they decided to ignore the dispatchers. There is a pattern of this sort of behaviour like here and here. Calling for and receiving back-up is one thing, an overly aggressive and out of control pack is a very different thing, and the latter is something that should not happen in a disciplined police force.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: I'm encouraged..

While it’s nice to see a case where the officers(at least some of them) are actually punished for going so far over the line, I can’t help but wonder how different things would have gone if this video hadn’t been taken, and it came down to how the cops spun the events(‘well the first guy was violently resisting, and even took a swing at me, so I had to gently restrain him for his own safety’), vs how the ones they arrested described the events.

Daemon_ZOGG (profile) says:

"ACLU Sues City Of Omaha, 32 Police Officers For Use Of Excessive Force.."

I refuse to believe any notion that this was the first time something like this has happened with OPD. That said, the OPD police chief should be publicly fired. The chief had to have already known about other previous incidents. A severe lack of proper leadership. And piss-poor personnel training. The fired officers should not be re-hired by the OPD at any future date. I fully agree with ACLU lawsuit.

TheRules says:

The cops broke several sacred rules during their home invasion:

Rule Number One:

ALWAYS SHOOT THE DOG. Always. Without hesitation. It’s (pre-emptive) self-defense. No cop has ever been punished for killing someone’s dog. (though a civilian defending herself against a police dog that’s ripping her arm to bloody shreds commits a felony offense, as these trained attack dogs are deputized law enforcement officers)

Rule Number Two:

ALWAYS FIND SOMETHING ILLEGAL to justify a warrant-less search, especially a violent one. Drugs and guns are the standard choice. Ideally, the cop who finds it should not be the same cop who plants it.

ThePirate says:

All of you pussy ass pigs in Omaha are all pieces of F’N shit so FUCK YOU MF’ers it is the opinion of some people that hopefully one day you pigs rush up on a house and are met with deadly force by the law abiding gun owning occupants standing up for their god given right to defend life and property and someone fucks up all you punk ass pigs. 25 pigs to handle 3 people in this video? Ever heard of the term abuse of power and police brutality? Because it is very clear from the video that Omaha police abused their F’N authority and I hope it cost you F’N Omaha assholes MILLIONS in the end. I don’t care IF you assholes you don’t like this comment because this is 1st amendment constitutionally protected freedom of speech

James Dean Foley says:

Additional Defendant's

This was clearly an act of Domestic Terrorism perpetrated by the Omaha Police Department against American Citizens. When are we as citizens going to be protected from these scumbag terrorists? I didn’t write Section 802 of the U.S. Patriot Act, I just follow it. It clearly defines this activity as being Domestic Terrorism. The ACLU should be adding US Attorney Gilg and deadbeat Kliene to the list of Defendants since they’re handling the officers with kid gloves. Pathetic!!

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