Omaha rapper responds to police comments

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November 24th, 2014

Omaha, NE – Newly released crime statistics show gun violence in Omaha has fallen this year, compared to the same time frame last year. But the fight against gangs and gang violence in Omaha is far from over.

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In interviews earlier this month with KETV and the Omaha World Herald, Lt. Ken Kanger of the Omaha Police Department called gang violence in Omaha ‘a catalyst and the result’ of the rap videos released by some in the public. He pointed to one student in Omaha who feared for his life following threats to him made by fellow students through a rap video posted on social media sites. Lt. Kanger said the videos are one of the higher priorities within the OPD. Lt. Kanger and the OPD declined interview requests for this story.

James Hollimon interviewing before last week's concert at the Slowdown. (Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

James Hollimon interviewing before last week’s concert at the Slowdown. (Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

Dr. Sam Walker is Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and author of 14 books on policing and criminal justice policy. Dr. Walker called Lt. Kanger’s comments totally baseless.

“I’m not sure that a rap video in any way is going to encourage a young kid to become a violent offender,” Dr. Walker said. “I just don’t think there is a real cause and effect link there.”

Dr. Walker said there is a difference between making a video and making threats. He said direct threats made to harm another person on camera are a criminal offense. He said there are certainly these types of videos on the internet for everyone to see. But Dr. Walker said unless there are laws broken during the filming of the videos, creating videos are a part of anyone’s First Amendment rights.

He said while police often call these videos ill-mannered or vulgar because of the language that may set a bit of a double standard. He said police swear at the public every day when confronting possible suspects.

“Offensive language is pervasive in American Policing,” Dr. Walker said. “It happens day in and day out all across the country and it just builds up this huge body of resentment, distrust and dislike of the police.”

(Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

(Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

This distrust among many people, especially in North Omaha, leads to a quandary for law enforcement and those investigating crimes, according to Dr. Walker. He said effective crime fighting requires the public to report crimes as this provides law enforcement with information vital to solving crimes. Crime victims or potential witnesses can provide the most valuable information police will get in doing their job. He said this is exactly why it’s important for law enforcement to build a mutual respect with the community.

“Police are public officials and all public officials have the responsibility, an obligation to deal with people in a respectful manner,” Dr. Walker said. “Teachers can’t use abusive language to students in the classroom or even out of the classroom, people at the department of motor vehicles can’t treat you with disrespect when you are down there to get your driver’s license or having any other issue, but it’s pervasive and really the heart of the problem.”

James Hollimon, 28, is originally from Jonesboro, Arkansas he moved to Omaha in 2005 and has lived here since. He has been rapping since he was 11 years old, first recording his writings in a professional studio when he was 14. Hollimon said he is living proof that rap music can be created and used for good.

He said generalizations about rap music and videos are not only incorrect, they are harmful. Holloway said blanket statements like this would be like saying, ‘all cops are racist’, it’s simply just not true. He said it divides the already fragmented community and feeds into ignorance.

“Saying when the rap videos stop, then the violence will stop is ignorance,” Hollimon said. “A lot of these guys here in Omaha have only been shooting videos for four or five years, and as far as I can remember the violence was here long before that.”

(Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

(Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

Hollimon said there are a lot of talented rap artists in Omaha, but he said the majority of local artists don’t like supporting other artists. He said last week’s show at the Slowdown was a collaboration of four local Omaha rap artists: Joe Pro, Delreece, Money 1Hunnid and King James (Hollimon). Three months in the making, it was a way to bring one message together under one roof, Hollimon said. And also to show the community a few people can make a difference.

“If you want things to be better within your community then it starts with you, you have to be the change you want to see,” Hollimon said.

Hollimon said there is a lot going on around the country ‘to divide us’, referencing the ongoing protests in Ferguson, MO. The country currently awaits the Grand Jury’s decision on a possible indictment of Officer Darren Wilson, following an August confrontation where Officer Wilson killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Hollimon said it’s affected him like many people he knows. His way of dealing with the pain is through writing rap and with his writing he wants to point people in the right direction. He said he sees a lot of people who are hurt.

(Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

(Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

“The way I want to reach people is ‘get out and protest’, but you don’t have to be ignorant with your protests,” Hollimon said. “You don’t have to vandalize businesses that have nothing to do with the issue at hand. My objective and what I hope for is everybody leaves here with positive vibes and they can see that four individuals can come together in this city and put on a productive show, that is not promoting violence and one that will make the people proud that they can come.”

Hollimon said he has seen too many people lose their way or their life. He said only through solidarity will any city, Omaha especially, come together. But he also said the police have a job to do, when it comes to solving crimes. To help fix the wariness of the police in North Omaha, there must be a mutual trust.

“Not only the police, but the politicians of the city as well, if they really want to get to the root cause then I feel like they need to come out to some more of these community events and really distinguish where the problem is coming from,” Hollimon said.

Dr. Walker agreed with Hollimon when it came to getting past what divides the community and more towards what can bring us together. Saying there is more common ground the people of Omaha share with police, than differences. Dr. Walker calls it common sense. “It’s essential to effective crime policy, in addition to establishing good relations out there in the community.”

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