The Omaha Police Department is questioning recent comments from City Council Vice President Vinny Palermo.

Palermo said he’s voting against Mayor Jean Stothert’s latest annexation package because the city doesn't have enough police officers to handle even one more resident, let alone the 180 new folks that would be added to Omaha’s western edge.

As NCN first reported Palermo said, “There are residents we’re going to gather from this and those are possible police calls. And those are police officers, we’ve all sat here and said were going to do whatever it took to make sure public safety is number one. So, I would disagree. I think public safety is being compromised by an annexation package that’s brought before us, when we cannot take care of what we have now.”

Stothert says she disagrees with Palermo and that Omaha "is a safe city."

Contacted by NCN a spokesman for OPD issued a detailed statement noting that while the department is “currently below its authorized strength, we have adjusted staffing levels to ensure response times are not affected.”

The statement also contends that Palermo “has not contacted” OPD regarding calls to 911.

The council is scheduled to vote on the annexation plan Tuesday.

Here’s the full statement from OPD:

Omaha City Councilmember Vincent Palermo has not contacted the Omaha Police Department in reference to 911 calls in the city and it is unknown what his official source of information is. 

Every year, in every major city, there will be times when calls for service will be held. There are several factors that are considered when this occurs such as staffing levels, crime reduction, response times, etc. 

Though our department is currently below its authorized strength, we have adjusted staffing levels to ensure response times are not affected and we are able to continue to provide effective and efficient police service to the citizens of Omaha. We have opened a call center for citizens to file reports that do not necessitate an in person police response. Our department has increased electronic reporting capabilities and case management tools to increase our officer’s overall efficiency.

Crime reduction is paramount to the success of a law enforcement agency and safety of any community. We are beginning to see violent crime decrease to levels we experienced pre-COVID. Homicide, which is the most egregious crime to a community, is down 43% from this time last year and our Homicide Unit currently has a 78% clearance rate on this year's cases. That clearance rate is nearly 30% higher than the national average.

Response times to Priority I and Priority II calls have been steadily trending downward over the last 8 years. 63% of Priority I calls are responded to under 8 minutes and 87% under 12 minutes. 69% of Priority II calls are responded to in under 15 minutes and 85% under 20 minutes. 

The West Precinct, which Councilmember Palermo specifically mentioned, has experienced a steady increase in Priority I and Priority II calls for service since the West Precinct’s opening in 2019. 2019 - 21,703 / 2020 - 21,833 / 2021 - 22,706.

This annexation package Councilmember Palermo is referencing affects approximately 180 people. This small percentage increase to our city’s total population does not necessitate concern in the services our department provides our citizens now or in the future with this additional annexation.

Editor's note: OPD also explained "Priority 1 and 2 Calls:

Priority I Call - An expedient/instantaneous response is used on calls where a life threatening or extremely dangerous situation exists to persons. These calls are often referred to as “In Progress,” “Just Occurred,” or “Hot” calls of a serious nature.

Priority II Call - An immediate response is used on all calls that are not life threatening or extremely dangerous that are “In Progress” or “Just Occurred.”