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Omaha residents furious with the police department for not announcing training exercise

OMAHA, Nebraska – A couple of weeks ago, an Omaha police training exercise took conducted in the vicinity of the Omaha Housing Authority Spencer Homes. Neighbors of the Spencer Homes are outraged, claiming they were not warned.

The Spencer Homes housing development is currently being demolished, but according to nearby residents, the sounds were far louder than those of the construction machinery.

“It was comparable to bombs being detonated. Siara Morrison stated, “I’m thinking they were military police because the back of their clothes indicated police, but they were all wearing fatigues and they were a formidable group because they carried shields.”

Siara Morrison resides just across from the construction site. In addition to being concerned about the loudness, she is also angry that no one informed the neighbors about what was happening.

Two weeks ago, the noise she heard was the Omaha SWAT squad practicing explosive breaching techniques.

Morrison stated, “It’s a whole neighborhood right here, why would you detonate explosives right next to people’s homes? It’s thoughtless, and then to not advise anyone to be quiet is extremely inconsiderate.”

Police in Omaha frequently conduct training drills in areas slated for demolition. The Spencer Homes are surrounded by a fence and there were buildings between the training exercises of the SWAT team and the Spencer Homes. The police also feel that the training exercise was handled safely.

“Some of the loud breaches can have a loud impact, but in this circumstance, there was a structure being demolished next door to the one they were practicing on, so there were other loud noises occurring in the neighborhood at the same time,” said Omaha police officer Chris Gordon.

Sandra Dawson-Hill stated, “That morning, I was awakened by sounds resembling the explosion of a bomb, followed by a violent tremor of the home.”

The neighbors of the Omaha Housing Authority Spencer Homes are enraged.

Sandra Dawson-Hill heard the sound as well. She hopped in her car and drove around the area to determine the situation.

“When I asked another neighbor what those sounds were, he responded, ‘it sounds like bombs, Sandra, it sounds like a bomb,’ and when he peeked between the bushes, he could see them,” Dawson-Hill recalled.

Mrs. Hill called a neighborhood leader to inquire about the situation.

Celeste Butler stated, “I began asking a variety of people I knew who might have information about why explosives were bursting in a residential neighborhood, but it took until yesterday morning to receive any information on the matter.”

Juanita Johnson, a member of the city council of Omaha, was aware of the challenges that her constituents were facing. She went to the police chief.

“The chief of police has issued an order prohibiting the Omaha police department from doing any more testing at that location,” stated Johnson.

Police in Omaha acknowledge they should have done a better job of educating neighbors about the situation, and they say they have a strategy to do so in the future.

Gordon stated, “We will reach out to these residents using social media, door-to-door outreach, and broadcast media to let them know that we will be conducting future training exercises in their community.”

It is crucial, according to Councilmember Johnson, for residents to speak up when they witness or experience something that disturbs them.

Johnson stated, “We would also like to encourage other residents to perform their civic duty and notify us when they observe something out of the ordinary.”

A redevelopment project necessitates the demolition of the Spencer Homes. These outdated brick structures will be replaced by apartments, single-family houses, and townhomes.

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