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Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, joined by Mayor Jean Stothert, speaks to a class of police recruits in October.

Eighteen officers from 11 law enforcement agencies across Nebraska will start training to become Omaha police officers Monday.

The class, which is made up of certified officers with prior policing experience, will help the department add police veterans’ knowledge to the patrol unit. The additional officers will help Omaha police reach an all-time high number of sworn officers as the fifth police precinct opens in Elkhorn later this year.

This is the second consecutive year that veteran officers will graduate to become Omaha police officers, known within the department as a “lateral class.” Last year, 27 already-certified officers graduated after an accelerated 11-week Omaha police training course. This year, the veteran class will undergo an even shorter eight-week class.

Omaha Police Deputy Chief Greg Gonzalez said there was a lot of interest, both within the department and from officers at other agencies, to have another lateral class.

“We feel a robust benefits package and a progressive police department attracts officers to explore other career-enhancing opportunities,” Gonzalez said. “The best organizations are constantly investing to attract the best and we have had great success with our past lateral class.”

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Meanwhile, the largest and one of the most diverse basic recruit classes, with 58 members, will graduate March 15. Counting both classes, the department’s sworn strength would reach 894, not including retirements or resignations. The number is just shy of Mayor Jean Stothert’s goal of having 900 officers in 2019, a promise she made in 2017.

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer had looked into adding veteran recruit classes after a mishandled police interaction and in-custody death of Zachary BearHeels in June 2017. Schmaderer had said that the officers involved had less than five years of experience, which he said contributed to the mistakes that were made.

The upcoming veteran class includes 17 men and one woman. The officers have up to 27 years’ experience in law enforcement. Combined, the officers have more than 100 years of police experience.

Alia Conley covers breaking news, crime, crime trends, the Omaha Police Department and initial court hearings. Follow her on Twitter @aliavalentine. Phone: 402-444-1068.

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