Hell Forms Bobsled Team After Police Chief Admits Fault In SWAT Raid Targeting Wrong Address

from the tfw-the-gold-standard-should-just-be-the-goddamn-standard dept

Something that happens far too often — police officers raiding the wrong house in search of criminals — has resulted in national headlines.

A police search warrant team going after a drug dealer targeted the wrong address and burst into the apartment of an innocent resident who shot and wounded two officers believing they were home invaders, Prince George’s law enforcement officials said.

It has been greeted by something that almost never happens.

Police Chief Hank Stawinski apologized for the error Thursday and said he has halted executing search warrants until the department reviews how it corroborates information to confirm addresses and the location of investigative targets.

There’s more. No charges will be filed against the man who shot two officers. The police chief said the man ambushed in his own home was a “law-abiding citizen.” Beyond that, he called the warrant itself into question, along with the information used to obtain it.

A confidential informant led investigators to the address at which they were serving the search warrant Wednesday night, Stawinski said. But the chief said he is “not satisfied” with the amount of information investigators used to obtain the search warrant and with the efforts to verify the information from the informant.

Here’s all the things that didn’t happen:

– No one suggested everyone “wait until all the facts are in.”

– No one blamed the media for rushing ahead with a narrative the PD didn’t find flattering.

– No one refused to comment until an investigation was completed.

– No one disparaged the victim of the raid by feeding his criminal record to local media.

– No one suggested the resident be more compliant in the future.

– No one defended the officers’ actions as reasonable.

– No one filed charges against the resident for shooting and wounding police officers.

This is an astounding reaction to incidents that are far too commonplace in this country. This is also an indictment of policing in America. There is no reason this reaction should be as stunning as it is. This should be standard operating procedure when cops screw up. Instead, we’re most often greeted with defense of indefensible actions combined with a multitude of efforts designed to make the SWAT raid victim appear as unsympathetic as possible.

Wrong address raids, killings of unarmed citizens, excessive force deployment… all of these events are normally handled by police departments with maximum defensiveness and minimal acceptance of culpability. A law enforcement agency immediately stepping up to take responsibility for its errors — especially ones with potentially deadly outcomes — is a breath of fresh air in the fetid, stagnant swamp of US policing.

But this shouldn’t be the ultra-rare exception. It should be the rule. The public law enforcement serves deserves far better than the condescending, self-serving crap it’s so often handed in the wake of incidents like these.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Hell Forms Bobsled Team After Police Chief Admits Fault In SWAT Raid Targeting Wrong Address”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
44 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

This? Do this more often. Do this ALL the time

Well now, if police acted like this all the time I and many others would be much more likely to cut them some slack on a regular basis when they screw up other times.

They screwed up and they owned it.

No attempt to shift the blame, no attempt to drag the innocent person through the mud and/or try to shift the narrative from ‘SWAT team raids wrong house’ to ‘vile (probable) criminal shoots two cops for what are surely heinous reasons.’

While it’s unfortunate, as noted in the article, that this isn’t the default, and it is therefore a pleasant surprise when police actually show some personal responsibility like this, it is still a pleasant surprise nonetheless. Now if it can start happening with such regularity that it stops being a surprise, and is instead treated as what it should have been, ‘just how it works’, that’d be great.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: This? Do this more often. Do this ALL the time

Obviously, it would be even better if they stopped SWAT-raiding the wrong houses on a regular basis, but accepting responsibility is a very good start. One can only reduce mistakes after acknowledging that he did make mistakes.

Later, they might even see them stop considering a SWAT raid as the default option to serve warrants.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: This? Do this more often. Do this ALL the time

We need more Stawinski-like cops. Now THIS one is a good cop. Not only he didn’t cover the asshats that got it wrong but he made it clear that the victim is the victim, nothing else. Doing the job properly isn’t enough to call a cop a good one. You need to denounce the bad ones and refuse to comply with the bullshit we see in PDs all around.

bob says:

was race a factor?

I looked at the source link and didn’t see any mention of a name or the race of the victim.

But I have to wonder, did the race of the person or his standing in society play any part in the response of the police chief?

Given all the previous incidents with other police departments it is more likely that race played a part. Hopefully though the police chief is a good cop that is trying to hold others accountable for their actions.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Can I ask the obvious question??
What race was the homeowner?

Consider the entire tableau…
Cops are giving CI’s cash for tips. How did they get these CI’s? They busted them for some crime & decided to use them to leverage information.
CI’s like not being in jail, like not being hassled by the police, like getting paid, and in some cases staying high.
Police lean on a CI who has nothing, but helps them invent a reason to get a warrant anyways.
Was the evidence literally a CI being given cash, sent into a building, & returning with some amount of drugs?
So like they could have had some drugs in their pocket but the cash they got for the buy & the information meant even more drugs for them. You just have to walk into a building, kill a few minutes, and walk out with a few wispy threads.

Perhaps it is time to put an end to using CI’s. I mean some of the unwilling college age CI’s busted with small amounts of drugs often end up pushed into working up to bigger dealers or else… they have a habit of turning up dead & the police claiming it wasn’t their fault for holding a conviction over the head of a kid busted with a single joint who they pushed to get pounds of meth to setup a sting maybe.

The entire system failed here.
The police did nothing to verify any of the information.
The police submitted a warrant based on lies.
The Judge issued a warrant based on lies.
They rolled out a swat team, based on nothing more than their target was a drug dealer… but no evidence to support that thinking.
A homeowner wasn’t given enough time to wake up from sleeping before they were doing dynamic entry & they didn’t keep saying they were police which lead to a homeowner being in fear of his life & safety shooting at them.

Drugs are bad mmmmkay, but do we need to roll highly armed & amoured teams to each suspected location, supported by the evidence of a drug using CI who might just want cash or to be left alone again serving up a fairytale.

Alphonse Tomato says:

For sake of completeness, the civilian was black.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/crime-law/2018/09/24/prince-georges-police-chief-does-amazing-thing-provides-facts-apologizes-mistake-almost-immediately/?utm_term=.6e2854c49c91

It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.

All parties are incredibly lucky that nobody was killed.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re:

To all those commenters who regularly moan that Tim Cushing hates cops, SHUT UP! Tim hates cop malfeasance, okay?

I’m very glad so see a chief cop take responsibility for failures in his department and glad that nobody died. That the homeowner is a person of colour is the icing on the cake for me. I’m glad he’s not facing charges.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.

How many times can you raid the wrong house before you get some sort of review?
Is this like the courts ruling that your rights weren’t violated because no court clearly told cops that you can’t fist a suspect with purple gloves??

It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.

Something something whats the point of the cool military gear unless we use it at every chance we get??

It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.
It’s apparently not the first time that SWAT team has raided the wrong address.

I wonder if the chief’s quick mea culpa is an attempt to try to shave some 0’s off of the settlement.
How many settlements have been paid already due to this crack teams stupidity?
How many settlements does it take to think perhaps the team is failing at the job?

The really sad thing would be if the chief’s actions were a result of the officers finally being the ones shot & the target surviving to tell his side of the story.

Personanongrata says:

Knock on the Door and Serve the Warrant like Professionals

Hell Forms Bobsled Team After Police Chief Admits Fault In SWAT Raid Targeting Wrong Address

One small step in the right direction.

Unfortunately once again SWAT was employed to perform a dynamic breach in order to serve a warrant to search for evidence of a potential crime (eg drug sales).

SWAT should never have been sent to serve the warrant.

SWAT should be utilized as a last resort after all other options have been explored. A final option not first choice.

Employing SWAT even in a worst case scenario can be an extremely dangerous endeavor as most times police never take the time to properly surveil their targets before acting in all manner adrenaline junkies and cowboys while unleashing wanton violence designed to terrorize the persons on the receiving end into submission.

Lack of proper surveillance ensures that SWAT will not be operationally aware of the following:

  • Number of persons in structure
  • Layout of interior of structure
  • Are weapons present?
  • Are children present?
  • Are police surveilling proper address?
  • Is it possible to use snatch/grab tactic in lieu of dynamic breach?

Continued use of SWAT for warrant service guarantees more of the same type of results as has occurred in Prince George’s County Maryland.

Why can’t law enforcement simply knock on the door and serve the warrant?

ChristopherL (profile) says:

Re: Knock on the Door and Serve the Warrant like Professionals

If you remove the no-knock warrant, you remove the need for SWAT, in most cases. Clearly, this is not allowed.
Despite a long history of military or military-style tactics intersecting civilians with abhorrent results, SWAT is still a common form of modern policing. Why?

Christenson says:

A trend....

I don’t see this as an isolated incident….I see it as the third or fourth item in a trend….the handwriting is on the wall that police misbehavior is not acceptable…and so the pendulum is swinging the other way with lots of help from viral screwups like this one.

Sunlight is a wonderful tool for accountability.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: A trend....

know of any?

Being a police officer is “can only serve one master” territory. The virtue of serving a master that approves of these behaviors to being with practically precludes the vast majority from being a “good cop”.

The only “good cop” right now is one that is working 100% of the time to bring accountability to law enforcement and that is just not going to pair well with the unions or the other officers.

Jon (profile) says:

How about basic reporting standards?

Even in high school I learned every article should have the 4 W’s. Who what where when.

I’ve read this 3 times and still have no idea WHERE it happened. Yes, there are links to other information. That doesn’t relieve the author of his responsibility to properly report.

Many times his bias turns me off, but that’s personal opinion. I can deal. But shoddy reporting (or writing) is inexcusable for any adult that makes a living at it.

ahaz says:

I Wonder Why?

It’s great that the department owned up to this mistake and even more so that the homeowner didn’t end up dead. However, LE doesn’t readily admit mistakes and we have to wonder why in this particular case. Obviously a mistake happened, I believe that something especially egregious occurred that allowed this mistake to happen. Secondarily, in Maryland, over 90% of SWAT deployments are for the issuance of search warrants according to the last SWAT report. Over 68% of those deployments were form Part-II non-violent crimes and forcible entry is used equally between Part-I and Part-II crimes. Currently, Utah is the only state that actually has mandatory SWAT reporting requirements and they showed similar statistics as well as an ACLU study. SWAT primary purpose is to issue search warrants, NOT to respond to active shooter, barricade or hostage situations that they were originally established. The increased militarization of our police forces places all of us at risk.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I Wonder Why?

“something especially egregious occurred that allowed this mistake to happen”

Why not something simple, like someone was lazy?

There are several delivery services out there who seem to be able to deliver things to proper addresses, perhaps the LEOs should ask them how they do it – 🙂 … yes, I realize they make mistakes also but they do have a much higher volume.

Anonymous Coward says:

You’d think they were attacking Bin Laden for christ’s sake they way they act.But then, how can they keep the public in a state of compliance through fear if they don’t use maximum possible force for even the most trivial things?

All the apologies and taking responsibility is meaningless if the officers and other people directly involved receive no punishment.

End the f’ing drug war already. There is no justification for it. Regulate it like other harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco and all the other crap people shove into their bodies.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...