- Associated Press - Monday, July 21, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Omaha mayor and police chief said more law enforcement officers are needed in the city.

Mayor Jean Stothert and Chief Todd Schmaderer said bolstering the ranks will reduce crime, improve response times, help staff special events and reduce gang violence.

Stothert plans to present a budget Tuesday to the city council that includes money for new recruits, the Omaha World-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1p0HiSn). It’s unclear how much funding the mayor wants for new positions, but she said she wants the city to budget for 840 officers by 2016.

“I would like to use these extra officers to get ahead,” Schmaderer said. “I’m not comfortable with the status quo.”

The department currently has 766 sworn officers. The number of Omaha police has fluctuated over the past decade, from a low of 753 to a high of 820. The authorized number of officers the department can have is 804, but the number of working officers on the street has ranged from 749 to 790.

Omaha has expanded in land through annexations and in population from people moving into the city. The last two federal census years show Omaha’s population grew by just under 5 percent. Because of that growth, officials say Omaha has struggled to keep up with the national average of sworn police officers per capita.

FBI statistics from 2012 show Omaha had 1.86 officers per 1,000 residents. The national average that year was at 2.4 officers for every 1,000 residents.

Some experts say adding more police per person doesn’t always help cut crime.

Western U.S. cities have had smaller numbers of officers based on population than those on the East Coast, said Alexander Weiss, a police staffing consultant and an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University. He said those differences don’t mean crime is higher in the West just because there are fewer officers.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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