Chelsey Morales said police confined her to an apartment.
Thurston Gross said police threatened to arrest him for trespassing as he tried to get to his own home.
What happened at Ida J. Yarbrough Homes Thursday during a police training exercise was unacceptable, said residents and community advocates at a lively meeting of the Arbor Hill Neighborhood Association on Monday night at the Arbor Hill/West Hill Library.
Albany Police Department‘s SWAT team conducted a hostage rescue drill in a vacant apartment at the public housing complex, just a few yards away from occupied homes.
Residents heard gunfire, flash grenades and breaking glass, and said they had no idea it was a training exercise.
“It looked like a small military operation complete with fatigues and full gear,” said Ida Yarbrough resident Lauren Manning, who said her 4-year-old child is still shaken up. “Children should not be exposed to that, not on television, not on radio and definitely not in real life.”
On Saturday, Police Chief Steven Krokoff said it was “insensitive” to conduct a drill near the occupied apartments.
Deputy Police Chief Brendan J. Cox, who attended Monday’s neighborhood meeting, said there was a breakdown in communication.
Cox said police officers met with the building manager and had visited the apartments Tuesday night to inform neighbors of the upcoming training exercise on Thursday morning, but residents in the audience — including the president of the tenants association — said nobody was told.
“You can’t bring me one person who was notified,” Gross said.
“This is a wake-up call,” said Cox, who said police need to do a better job of informing neighbors about training exercises near their homes.
Jay Cunningham, director of security operations for Albany Housing Authority, said there will be no more tactical training in Ida Yarbrough, but he would not rule out training exercises at other public housing properties.
Albany police often use vacant buildings owned by the housing authority for training exercises, as do other agencies. The U.S. Marshals Service performed a training exercise at Ida Yarbrough earlier this month. The training exercises are necessary and save lives, Cox and Cunningham said.
Two Ida Yarbrough residents said they like having police training at the housing complex and believe it makes their neighborhood safer. Most didn’t like it.
Corrie Terry of Albany and founder of Mothers Against Murders and Shootings, said the incident made residents feel “devalued.”
“Children shouldn’t have to walk through simulated war zones,” Terry said. “We need to be valued as a people that have a right to live without fear.”
Residents said the problems were compounded by the way they were treated during the drill.
Gross was trying to get to his apartment, but he said police would not let him walk through the training area and told him to walk around the block to get to his apartment. He said police threatened to charge him with trespassing.
Morales said one officer forced her to stay inside an apartment where she was baby-sitting a child. Cox said nobody should have been confined to their apartment.
The police department will help bring in trauma counselors for children and residents upset by the training exercise, Cox said.
A protest of the police’s training has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the corner of Livingston Avenue and North Pearl Street.
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