More than a dozen Nebraska law enforcement agencies still aren't compliant with new national standards for collecting and reporting data on crime in their jurisdictions.
Among the 16 noncompliant agencies in Nebraska is the police department tracking data for the state's most populous city, said Mike Fargen, the director of the Nebraska Crime Commission's Systems and Research division.
Speaking at a Crime Commission meeting in Lincoln on Friday, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said the agency's size is the exact reason the department hasn't yet made the switch to the National Incident-Based Reporting System — the only data-reporting standard accepted by the FBI as of January 2021.
The system was developed as a part of a collaborative effort to ensure consistent, detailed and reliable data is reported across every law enforcement jurisdiction in the country.
"Noncompliant is not really the term I like to hear because it shows a little resistance," Schmaderer told the commission, of which he is a member. "There's no resistance from Omaha. We've been working very hard — this is just a size matter. Cities our size across the country are not to where we're at in this process.
"We've reached that point where I do see light at the end of the tunnel here. So bear with us."
Fargen said five agencies indicated ahead of the commission's last quarterly meeting in August that while they hadn't yet reached compliance in their data reporting, they would in the next one or two months. Three months later, Fargen said, four of those agencies — including OPD — remain noncompliant.
Don Arp Jr., executive director of the Crime Commission, said the state's largest police department is "very close" to compliance, having met thresholds for data integrity. The hang-up stems from minor details, Arp said, pointing to minute details like nondescript quantity measurements listed alongside drug seizures.
"They've jumped the major hurdle," Arp said.
The same can't be said for at least 11 of the 16 noncompliant agencies, including the Seward Police Department. That agency forecast an 11-month delay in gaining data reporting compliance, Fargen said, a timeline "clearly outside" the commission's Jan. 8 target deadline.
One agency, the Blaine County Sheriff's Office, has been completely unresponsive to the Nebraska Crime Commission's requests for the office to shift to new national standards, Fargen said. And one county sheriff threatened to quit if the commission implemented any further new requirements, though commission members weren't sure if that sheriff hails from Blaine County or elsewhere.
Even as the commission works to ensure eventual compliance from every law enforcement agency in the state, Fargen conceded some agencies will simply remain noncompliant — an issue the commission hasn't yet decided how to address.
Fargen suggested the commission begin levying fines toward counties where law enforcement agencies haven't yet complied, though Arp indicated the group would opt for a wait-and-see approach.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, who serves as the chairperson of the commission, pointed to the Dodge County Sheriff's Office as a noncompliant agency with "no excuse."
"The reality in Nebraska is some of these law enforcement agencies are one-person shops," Peterson told the Journal Star. "And so when we get noncompliances, ... I want to focus on the bigger communities, because then that will give us a much better picture of what's going on with regards to law enforcement efforts in the state."
Still, the attorney general said small counties like Blaine, population 477, will "not be allowed just to ignore" compliance standards.
Peterson said once data is standardized across the state and collected by the commission, he ultimately doesn't expect the body to use data trends to direct policy changes for the state's law enforcement agencies.
That role, he said, would largely be left up to the Legislature.