Tag Archives: officer

Busting Bad Guys

April 20, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Originally published in the May/June 2015 edition of Omaha Magazine.

It was February 2002 and Mark Langan and his partner had just shot a man dead in South Omaha. The convicted drug dealer was known to be violent and shot at Langan first, but the longtime Omaha narcotics cop was still badly shaken. Not only had he killed a man, but he was being read his Miranda Rights and would soon be facing a grand jury to defend his actions. Then, amid this tumult, he did what he says “officers are told never to do.”

“I called my wife,” he says. “I knew she’d be seeing it all on the news. I knew she’d be worried. I had to call her. I had to tell her everything would be alright.”

In Busting Bad Guys, Langan tells this gripping story with all the taut verve you expect from quality true crime. But, then, Langan, arguably with more literary finesse that one might expect from a career drug cop in Omaha, tells the rest of the story. Four years after, he and his partner were contacted by the dead man’s daughter. She wanted closure. She wanted to meet them. Langan and his partner agreed. The scene that followed at a local restaurant reads as poignant as
fine fiction.

You might know Langan now as the guy at the Nebraska Humane Society tasked with protecting the city’s animals from abuse. For 10 years, he’s been the enforcement arm for the Society—the guy who, with his close ties with law enforcement and his passion for animals, puts teeth in the Society’s mission and the city’s anti-cruelty statutes.

But, before that, Langan spent 26 years as an Omaha police officer. Sixteen of the those years were in vice and narcotics, the two areas of crime fighting that, with the homicide department, generate some of the wildest and gut-wrenching cop stories there are. “The joke was that I went from busting meth labs to chasing black labs,” Langan says.

Just as interesting as the tales of mayhem are Langan’s stories of his personal life. If you know the man only peripherally, he can come off as the stereotypical cop: Hard, jaded, forceful, and unusually self-assured. In the book, and in person, you come to know a different Langan, one who his high school counselor suggested was far too sensitive and introspective to go into law enforcement.

Langan is a contradiction. “Sometimes it’s like you’re several different people.” He’s the tough guy when tough is necessary. “There are some people I was thrilled to help send off to prison.” He became more himself, he says, when he was consoling a victim or working with non-violent criminals struggling with drug addictions.“It can be so rewarding hearing from somebody years later who got their life back together,” he says.

Then, unlike many longtime cops, he was, and remains to be, your average family guy with his wife and two children.

“My kids didn’t know what I was doing,” he says. “I didn’t want to bring it home to them. In a way, this book is for them. It’s a way to tell them what I was doing all
those years.”

“Mark didn’t bring his work home—he wasn’t that stereotype of the bad cop husband you see on television,” says his wife, Annette. “He really was wonderful even through the toughest times.”

The only impact she says she saw: He was a clean freak, especially after he was involved in busting a meth house in which children were neglected and abused.

“That’s where we’d see it,” she says. “I think he dealt with what he had seen by coming home and making everything right.”

In the year since the books release, Langan has been an aggressive promoter, having done 80 signings throughout the city. He has sold more than 7,000 copies so far and plans to continue the breakneck promotional tour.

Then, when things calm down, he may try his hand at another book.

“I’m not sure what it would be,” he says. “But the response to the book has been amazing and it’s been such a wonderful experience. I enjoy writing, I enjoy telling stories. I’d hate to think this book is it.”

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Todd Schmaderer

October 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For a man who never thought he’d be a police officer, Todd Schmaderer’s career in law enforcement certainly has seen a meteoric rise. Omaha’s once interim police chief was selected from four applicants for the Chief of Police position this past August. As the new commander, he leads a force of 796 sworn officers and just over 1,000 employees total, oversees a budget of $119 million, and is responsible for the safety of the citizens living in the city’s 114 square miles.

It is a job he performs with pride. Chief Schmaderer is Omaha born and bred. A 1990 graduate of Roncalli Catholic High School, he attended Wayne State College in northeast Nebraska on a football scholarship his freshman year. He then transferred to the University of Nebraska-Omaha to prepare for a potential career in business. But while at UNO, he shifted academic gears and sought a degree in criminal justice with the original intention of pursuing the enforcement side of the IRS.

However, the allure of immediate job placement upon graduation was too enticing to pass up, and Schmaderer joined the Omaha Police Department. That was 18 years ago. Today, the man who once “walked the beat” is reaching out to community groups, other law enforcement agencies, and social services to build on the police department’s commitment to service.

One of his top priorities is a reduction in violent crime. Schmaderer seeks to emulate metro areas that have successfully addressed this pressing issue: “Police tactics need to be reflective of practices that work with other cities with similar problems.” But, he continues, Omaha’s solution cannot be an exact replica of Cincinnati’s or Boston’s approach, either; “We must tweak it to fit Omaha’s unique situation.”

He also believes that establishing a solid community-policing program will help address crime. Gone are the days of “an officer on every corner,” Schmaderer acknowledges. Social media, such as the police department’s Facebook page, can be instrumental in the exchange of information between the police and the community.

“It’s a large city and large engine, and we need to break it down into its parts to create a working plan.”

Communication with the city’s various neighborhood associations will also help Omaha police streamline its approach to crime prevention by allowing police to tailor its presence to a neighborhood’s particular need. Graffiti might be a primary concern for one neighborhood, whereas car break-ins might be uppermost on another area’s mind. Community groups are stakeholders in the problem, he asserts, and can play an integral role in crime reduction by identifying ways the police can serve them.

“It’s a large city and large engine, and we need to break it down into its parts to create a working plan,” asserts Schmaderer.

Reducing crime is also a shared responsibility with other city departments, law enforcement agencies, and nonprofit and civic social service agencies. Poverty and lack of employment are two of the root causes of crime, he firmly maintains. Social services can play a significant role in crime prevention by intervening in potential offenders’ lives before they turn to crime as “a fix” for their problems.

Schmaderer takes the helm of the police department at a time when Omaha is experiencing great growth. He believes that “long-term planning is so important to keep up with this growth” so that expansion of the police department is commensurate with city expansion. He plans to increase staffing in the department’s gang and homicide units. He also will augment personnel in the cold case squad, an indication of his commitment to “never forgetting the victim.”

As Chief, Schmaderer may not have time to teach criminal justice classes at Bellevue University as he has done since 2010. Nor will he be able to coach his two children’s athletic teams. But he will continue to etch out opportunities to go for a run, spend time with his children, and enjoy free moments with his girlfriend, a sergeant with Omaha’s police force and whom Schmaderer describes as “my best friend and strongest supporter.”

Time-consuming and complex as his job is, this is where he wants to be. “At the end of the day, I am glad if I made a difference in the community and the people who work with me.”