It’s been awhile since Omaha, Nebraska police began an investigation into allegations that two officers talked of framing a targeted alleged “gang member” by putting marijuana in his trash. So long, in fact, that one of the officers applied for a disability pension, had two hearings on the matter and retired — three months ago.
Meanwhile, a couple of drug possession cases have stalled in court while attorneys await reports on the internal affairs investigation.
With six months having passed since the investigation was launched by the Omaha Police Department and the officers were placed on paid leave, questions are being asked.
”Why is this taking so long? You’d have to ask them,” said Michael Dowd, an attorney for Officer Kara Hindman. “My client stands ready to go back to work as soon as they allow her to do so.”
Hindman, a gang unit officer, and her boyfriend, Frank Platt, 39, a former gang unit officer turned patrol officer, were placed on paid administrative leave while the department investigated whether they had plans to frame the man by putting marijuana in his trash.
Platt’s partner, Steve Kult, said he overhead Platt talking on the phone with Hindman about putting a small amount of marijuana in the trash of the alleged gang member, according to law enforcement officials.
Kult went to his supervisors, alleging that Platt asked him to stow away a small amount of marijuana from a traffic stop or a confidential informant, police said.
Kult said he also heard Platt tell Hindman not to worry, because everything would “work out” with a planned “trash pull.” Police sometimes search through people’s garbage trying to find “drug residue” to establish probable cause to search a house.
Police supervisors immediately pulled the officers from duty — but that was back in May.
As the investigation continues, attorneys — and even some police officers — wonder why law enforcement leaders didn’t at least conduct surveillance of the officers involved, to see if they would follow through with any purported plan.
Instead, investigators are left with one officers’ word against the others’, according to officials with knowledge of the probe.
Omaha Police Chief Alex Hayes wouldn’t comment on specifics of the case, claiming it’s a personnel matter and an ongoing investigation. However, Chief Hayes cautioned people against assuming “they know what happened in this case.”
“Any time I get any kind of notion of impropriety, I’m going to put an immediate stop to it,” Hayes claimed. “Morally, I would be remiss to let something go on that I knew was wrong.”
Hayes claims he is in the midst of changing “department procedures” as a result of the case.
And police spokeswoman Lt. Darci Tierney claims investigators are continuing to look into the actions of the two officers.
“Investigations take time, because we want to be thorough and objective,” Tierney said on Friday.
The man who would decide whether any charges are filed — Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine — said he hasn’t received any police reports.
According to Dowd, Officer Hindman’s attorney, she has “cooperated fully” with the investigation. Hindman gave an initial statement, then Internal Affairs officers asked for an additional statement in recent weeks, according to Dowd.
Internal investigations are confidential, according to the police union contract, but details can be revealed if a criminal case is filed.
“She’s engaged in no wrongdoing and has maintained that from day one,” Dowd claimed.
Since being placed on leave, the other officer, Hindman’s boyfriend Platt, has applied for a service-related disability, claiming he suffers from a convenient case of post-traumatic stress disorder after shooting three men and killing two during his police career.
A city personnel board granted Platt’s request, awarding him $40,000 a year.
Platt’s attorney, Mike Fabian, claimed his client “engaged in no wrongdoing” in the case.
Both law enforcement officials and attorneys have been critical of the Omaha Police Department decision to immediately pull the officers, pointing out that detectives often conduct surveillance to see where drugs end up.
In this case, supervisors could have watched to see if officers tried to act on a plan to frame someone for marijuana. Instead, the department’s brass took the officers off the street — and the finger-pointing began.
“They jumped the gun,” said one veteran Omaha police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Had they watched and waited, they would have had a trail that would have left no question as to who did what.”
Omaha defense attorney Chad Brown said police have a duty to provide an explanation of exactly what happened.
Brown has motions pending to reveal the investigation of Hindman and Platt. The two officers were involved, separately, in “discovering drugs” in two cases involving Brown’s clients.
Police have not revealed the identity of the target of the alleged frame-up.
Brown said the public — not just his clients — needs to know whether it can trust police.
“The cloud is still there,” Brown said. “We need to know whether police were doing anything wrong, whether we can still have confidence in Omaha police’s drug investigations. That, to me, is the main thing.”