Unannounced police training in Omaha neighborhood raises concerns

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – People who live around Omaha Housing Authority Spencer Homes are angry they say they weren’t told about an Omaha police training exercise that took place there a few weeks ago.

Demolition of the Spencer Homes housing project is underway, but neighbors say the sounds were much louder than the sounds coming from construction equipment.

“It was like something like bombs going off. I guess it was military police because the back of their uniforms said police, but they were all in fatigues, it was a good bunch of them because they had shields,” Siara Morrison said .

Siara Morrison lives right across from the demolition yard. Not only is she upset about the noise, but she is also angry that no one informed the neighbors about what was going on.

The noise she heard two weeks ago was the Omaha Police SWAT team practicing explosive breaching techniques.

“It’s a whole neighborhood here, why planting bombs right next to people’s houses like that is reckless, and then not telling anybody not to say anything is super reckless,” Morrison said.

Omaha police often hold drills in areas slated for demolition. The Spencer Homes are fenced and there were buildings buffering SWAT team training drills. And the police believe the training exercise was conducted in a safe manner.

“Some of the loud breaches can have a loud impact, but in this particular situation there was a building right next to the building they were practicing on that was being demolished, so there were other loud noises in the neighborhood. that were happening at the same time,” said Chris Gordon of the Omaha Police Department.

“That morning I heard loud bomb-like sounds shaking the house tremendously after these sounds happened,” Sandra Dawson-Hill said.

People who live around Omaha Housing Authority Spencer Homes are angry.

Sandra Dawson-Hill also heard the noise. She jumped in her car and drove around the neighborhood to find out what was going on.

“I saw another neighbor and asked him what those noises were and he said ‘it sounds like bombs Sandra, it sounds like a bomb’, and he looked between the bushes and he could see them,” said Dawson-Hill.

Ms Hill called one of the community leaders to try to get some answers.

“I started asking questions of different people I know who could probably get answers and it took until yesterday morning to get information on why they were detonating bombs in a residential area,” said Celeste Butler.

Juanita Johnson, Member of the Omaha City Council heard about the problems faced by neighbors in his neighborhood. She went to see the chief of police.

“The Chief of Police has directed his staff that there will be no more testing provided by the Omaha Police Department at this site in the future,” Johnson said.

Omaha police admit they could have done a better job of letting neighbors know what was going on, they say they have a plan to do better.

“We will be reaching out to these individual neighbors, either through social media or door-to-door on broadcast media, as well as letting people know that we are going to be in the neighborhood for future training drills,” Gordon said.

Councilman Johnson says it’s important citizens speak up when they see or experience something that upsets them.

“We would also like to encourage other citizens to do their civic duty and let us know when they see something out of the norm,” Johnson said.

The Spencer houses are demolished to make way for a revitalization project. These old brick buildings will be replaced by apartments, single family homes and townhouses.

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Richard V. Johnson