Nebraska Senator Ernie Chambers found himself in the midst of a media firestorm after he made critical comments against cops during a March 20 state legislature judiciary committee hearing, claiming they pose more of a danger to citizens than the terrorist group ISIS.
The democrat’s words, posted below, can also be heard in the video at the bottom of the story.
“Nobody from ISIS ever terrorized us as a people, as the police do daily. And they get away with it and they’ve been given the license now. And people don’t like me to say this. Then you rein in your cops. And you know what they say, the racism of the cops is merely reflective of the racism in this society and they accept the existence of racism to excuse the cop. But then when I say there is racism in the society, they say, you’re playing the race card, you’re talking about it makes it happen…..
If I was going to carry a weapon, it wouldn’t be against you, it wouldn’t be against these people who come here that I might have a dispute with. Mine would be for the police. And if I carried a gun, I’d want to shoot him first and then ask questions later, like they say the cop ought to do.”
Needless to say, the local police force and its supporting public officials are crying foul. Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer released a statement completely dismissing Chambers point of view:
“The comments that Senator Ernie Chambers made today at the Nebraska Unicameral are not only reprehensible but are completely without merit.”
Not necessarily without merit considering an Omaha police officer resigned four days after Chambers’ comments while in the midst of an internal affairs investigation into why he killed a man by shooting him in the back last month.
And last year, four Omaha cops were fired and two were criminally charged for destroying evidence after stealing a camera from a man they had chased into his home without a warrant. Unknowing to them, a neighbor recorded their actions from an upstairs bedroom window from across the street.
Also last year, Omaha police shot and killed a cameraman from the television show Cops during a robbery.
Mayor Jean Stothert expressed similar contempt for Chambers stating via press release that he should be looking for ways to improve public safety instead of “comparing police officers to terrorists.”
As expected, police unions are expressing more of an outcry, demanding an apology from the longest-serving state senator in the history of Nebraska as well as asking other senators to take action against him.
Many of the freshman senators served as Chamber harshest critics rather than veteran politicians who’ve been working with him for many years.
According to reports from the Lincoln Journal Star, some of Chambers biggest advocates came from across the aisle.
Republican Bill Kintner, who Chambers has been critical of in the past, came across as cautiously supportive: “I think I know what he was trying to say.”
Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady, a career cop, made light of the situation with a comedic tweet: “I think Sen. Chambers is far more likely to give birth than shoot a police officer. Wouldn’t mind having him as a partner in the 1970s.”
Chambers, for his part has stood by his word, refusing to apologize and promising to continue monitoring the police both “strongly and vociferously.”
As a long time civil rights activist and one of the most prominent African-African leaders in the state (and only African-American senator), it should come as no surprise that he would be vocal advocate for the concerns of his community, serving in office from 1971 to 2009 when newly enacted term limits forced him out, only for him to win office again in 2013.
Although he is definitely guilty of off-kilter public displays including his peculiar 2007 lawsuit against God, Chambers has a track record of fighting systemic injustice and remains firm in his First Amendment rights.
Click on first video below to hear his comments as well as his defense of those comments. Click on second link to see news report.