Unannounced police training in Omaha neighborhood raises concerns

Neighbors say the sounds a couple of weeks ago were much louder than the sounds coming from the construction equipment.
People who live in a North Omaha neighborhood are angry and say they feel totally disrespected.
Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 7:43 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - People who live around the Omaha Housing Authority’s Spencer Homes are angry, they say they were not notified of an Omaha Police training exercise that took place a couple of weeks ago.

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

“It was like something like bombs being set off. I’m assuming it was military police because the back of their uniforms said police but they were all in fatigues, it was a good group of them because they had like some shields,” Siara Morrison said.

Siara Morrison lives right across the street from the demolition site. Not only is she upset about the noise she’s also angry that no one told the neighbors about what was going on.

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

“It’s a whole neighborhood right here, why would you be setting bombs off right next to people’s houses like that’s inconsiderate, and then to not tell anybody to not say anything, it’s super inconsiderate,” Morrison said.

Omaha Police often conduct training exercises in areas set to be demolished. The Spencer Homes are fenced off, and there were buildings buffering the SWAT team training exercises.

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 immediately next door to the building they were practicing on that was being demolished in the process so there was other loud noises happening in the neighborhood happening at the same time,” OPD Officer Chris Gordon said.

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

“That morning, I experienced loud bomb-like sounds going off a tremendous shake to the house after those sounds went off,” she said.

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

“I saw another neighbor and I asked him what those sounds 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,” Dawson-Hill said.

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

“I started asking questions to different ones that I know that could probably get some answers and it has taken up to yesterday morning to get any information about why they were exploding bombs in a residential neighborhood,” Celeste Butler said.

Omaha City Councilwoman Juanita Johnson heard about the issues neighbors in her district were having and went to the chief of police.

“The chief of police has put out an order to his staff that there will not be any more testing provided by the Omaha Police Department at that site going forward,” Johnson said.

Omaha Police admit they could have done a better job of informing neighbors about what was going on, and say they have a plan to do better.

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

Councilwoman Johnson said it is important for citizens to speak out 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’re seeing something out of the norm,” she said.

The Spencer Homes are being demolished to make way for a revitalization project. The old brick buildings will be replaced with apartments, single-family homes, and townhomes.