Lincoln Police Union endorses Geist for mayor

State Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln announces her bid to be Lincoln’s next mayor last year. KENNETH FERRIERA, Journal Star

The Lincoln Police Union endorsed Republican mayoral candidate Suzanne Geist on Thursday, despite a union contract negotiated with Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s administration that makes city police officers the highest-paid in the state.

Four years ago, the union backed Gaylor Baird, then a Democrat on the City Council making her first bid for mayor. But union attorney Gary Young said low staffing levels and Gaylor Baird’s handling of protests following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020 played a role in the union’s decision to endorse Geist.

The issue is a difference in priorities between Gaylor Baird and Geist, Young said.

“They need an absolute commitment to their safety and their staffing levels from the mayor,” he said. “That doesn’t mean just making them the highest-paid officers in the state, briefly,” he said. “That means when … things are going good and bad, they know they’re going to be addressed by the mayor, not based on the politics of the situation but based on the work that they do.”

That didn’t happen during the protests during the summer of 2020, when there were fireworks and gasoline being thrown at officers, Young said.

“The current mayor equivocated on her support of police in favor of other political constituents that she has.” he said. “And that is unacceptable.”

Union President Jeff Sorenson — standing with officers holding signs of support in the From Nebraska gift store in the Haymarket — said Geist has been a longtime supporter of law enforcement as a state senator, listens to police on key issues and supports the community-based policing used by LPD.

“She’s a proven leader in our community, not just with her words, but also in her actions,” he said. “She shares our vision for improving public safety so that we all have a safe place to live, work and raise our families.”

Asked if she would vote for the so-called “concealed carry” bill (LB77) in the Legislature, Geist said she is working with Sen. Tom Brewer on some “tweaks” that would allow her to support it.

Backers of the bill have signaled they want to push forward this year without amendments.

Last year, Brewer’s LB773 — despite an amendment negotiated with Omaha police — fell two votes short of shutting off debate in the second round and died on the floor. Geist was among those who didn’t vote to shut off debate. She is not among sponsors of this year’s bill.

Both Omaha and Lincoln police opposed last year’s concealed carry bills, which would allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit or required safety training.

Geist and former Husker football player Stan Parker, a Republican who runs a nonprofit Christian ministry, are challenging Gaylor Baird in the upcoming city election. The primary is April 4 and the general election May 2.

The race is shaping up to be an expensive one: Geist has already gotten significant financial support from Sandhills Publishing, which earlier donated $250,000 and in December donated another $448,757 to her campaign.

Geist said she’s committed to helping LPD recruit and retain officers and work with LPD to “crack down on violent crime,” alleging an uptick in recent months of aggravated assaults, weapons and other offenses.

“The public safety problems we’re seeing in our city have no place in Lincoln,” she said.

While there were 10 homicides in a five-month period last year, Lincoln’s violent crime rate has dropped significantly since the 1990s, as reports of violent crimes have remained relatively stagnant as the population has increased by about 100,000.

Gaylor Baird, who has made public safety a priority of her administration, has added 31 positions at LPD and 28 positions at Lincoln Fire and Rescue, she said in a statement. Those 31 LPD positions include 18 commissioned officers.

“We have supported our first responders in every single budget,” the mayor said. “We’re committed to public safety and I have the record to prove it.”

Young noted that LPD is one of the most understaffed police departments given the city’s population. Grand Island has a force 40% higher per capita than Lincoln, he said. Lincoln would have to add 110 police officers to get to those per-capita staffing levels, and Young thinks there’s enough money in Lincoln’s coffers to add 20 officers a year.

The low number of LPD officers per-capita is not new: it has been low for many years and over more than one administration.

But Young said Lincoln has seen a shift recently, with people from outside the city coming to Lincoln to commit crimes because they see it as a “soft target.”

Geist said the police union endorsement shows she’s not only a viable candidate but that she has support.

“I think that this is also a message to the community that we’re moving forward and we need to be taken seriously.”

Gary L. Young


Gary Young joined the firm in 1997 after previously serving as judicial law clerk to the Honorable John F. Wright of the Nebraska Supreme Court. Gary’s practice focuses on labor disputes and labor law, representing a wide variety of public sector employees in collective bargaining and before the Commission of Industrial Relations. Among these clients are many of the major leading law enforcement employee groups in Nebraska. Gary actively represents police officers and other law enforcement officials in officer-involved shooting incidents, in-custody deaths, and before grand juries.

Gary also serves as adjunct professor of Legal Writing at the University of Nebraska College of Law, where he is a Harold W. Kauffman Legal Writing Fellow.

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