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Omaha police drop plan to check journalists' backgrounds

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    NMU         NEBRASKA         Newsgathering         Dec 11, 2001    

Omaha police drop plan to check journalists’ backgrounds

  • The department scuttled a proposal to require journalists seeking credentials to submit to fingerprints and checks after media organizations complained.

Omaha, Neb., Police Chief Donald Carey proposed requiring background checks and fingerprinting of reporters who covered police work as one effort to improve security within the department after the Sept. 11 attacks, but then dropped the proposal after reporters claimed it amounted to a licensing of the news media.

Sgt. Daniel Cesar said the checks and fingerprinting proposal would have required members of the press to be subject to background checks and fingerprinting in order to obtain press credentials and access to police headquarters. The proposal was made in late November but dropped on Dec. 5 after media organizations presented another option.

“Since there were a few reporters who already had identification cards, and we were assured that many news organizations and especially TV stations did their own criminal check on their employees, we decided not to pursue it,” Cesar said.

“We basically left it as the news stations responsibility to provide us with a list of current employees and who has authorization to those credentials, ” Cesar added.

Before Sept. 11, reporters needed only a police press credential for access to the building. Cesar said he worried that unreturned cards could get into the wrong hands. Under the new agreement, news agencies make sure all Omaha City Police credentials are returned after a reporter leaves.


© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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