By Governor Pete Ricketts
August 26, 2016
The Governor’s official photo is available here.
The thin blue line. It’s the men and women who put on their uniforms each and every day in our communities to serve and protect. They are the officers who put their lives in danger to keep our families, homes, and schools safe. They are the agencies that help uphold the rule of law. They are the leaders who recruit, train, and employ the officers who are ready to sacrifice everything to protect public safety.
National events have highlighted the importance of developing good relationships between our communities and the courageous men and women who help protect public safety. We are blessed to have good relationships between our law enforcement agencies and communities in Nebraska. This is evidenced in the commitment of our communities and our law enforcement agencies to keeping open lines of communication. This week, the Blair Optimists hosted a Law Enforcement Appreciation Cookout, and recently KLIN radio and Lincoln area businesses hosted a “Back the Badge” event. Since 2005, the Omaha Police Department’s (OPD) officers have been coaching neighborhood kids in soccer and baseball through Police Athletics for Community Engagement, a free athletic program reaching over 2,000 local youth. Additionally, OPD has a tradition of hosting “Coffee with a Cop,” to allow community members to sit down and get to know the police officers working alongside us in our communities every day.
Positive relationships like these have grown over years out of an ongoing commitment from community members and law enforcement leaders. This outreach requires a significant investment of time and effort from our law enforcement agencies. At the state, we are working to build on this foundation. Last year, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) awarded Nebraska a grant to our law enforcement training academies to pilot Blue Courage, a program which helps to increase the professionalism of law enforcement officers and reignite their sense of mission in serving the public. More recently, the state has received additional resources to expand the program, which will allow us to train existing law enforcement personnel. Nebraska is one of only eight states nationally who have been designated as a full-immersion state for this program by the BJA.
This program has three stated goals. First, it aims to increase the professionalism of our officers by rejuvenating “their sense of passion, purpose, and commitment.” Second, the initiative works to cultivate positive physical and mental health. Finally, the curriculum emphasizes the importance of building positive relationships between law enforcement and communities.
At a recent news conference, representatives from the Crime Commission, the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center, Nebraska State Patrol (NSP), Omaha Police Department, and Lincoln Police Department joined me to talk about the impact of this new grant. These leaders spoke about how the program’s curriculum is already having a positive impact by helping officers view their role as guardians of their community. State Patrol Colonel Brad Rice put it well: “The Blue Courage Initiative… can instill in our troopers the importance of character, good judgment, and the value of building trust and showing respect for all people.”
All Nebraska’s law enforcement training academies have already started utilizing the Blue Courage curriculum. NSP’s sworn officers have received a two-hour block of Blue Courage training as a part of their ongoing training. Additionally NSP’s 19 new troopers, who graduated recently, received Blue Courage training during camp.
Blue Courage is just one way we can proactively help our officers build open lines of communication with their communities. I encourage you and your community to consider how to support your local law enforcement. It could be as simple as putting a sign in your yard. For example, Congressman Fortenberry is providing yard signs that say “Honor Our Police” to Nebraskans. If you have other ideas on how to support our law enforcement, I hope you will share them with my office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 402-471-2244.