Reck­less show of force

Care­less polic­ing leads to set­tle­ment, trauma

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - National -

More than four years af­ter a Pitts­burgh po­lice SWAT team mis­tak­enly raided a North Side fam­ily’s home, forc­ing Ta­batha Werk­meis­ter, Gri­nage Dion Wil­son and their four chil­dren out­side in the mid­dle of the night with­out just cause, a mod­icum of jus­tice is fi­nally be­ing served.

Pitts­burgh City Coun­cil ap­proved an $80,000 set­tle­ment for the fam­ily with an 8-0 vote on Wed­nes­day. This is the least the city can do af­ter law en­force­ment mis­used its tac­ti­cal forces and de­ployed ag­gres­sive tech­niques with­out en­sur­ing that the right peo­ple were be­ing tar­geted.

Mar­garet S. Cole­man, Ms. Werk­meis­ter’s lawyer, told the Post-Gazette’s Ash­ley Mur­ray that the of­fi­cers had misiden­ti­fied the fam­ily’s home at the time of the raid: “The fam­ily’s en­trance to their home — the left door of a du­plex — was misiden­ti­fied. Their liv­ing area oc­cu­pies the sec­ond and third floors of the house. The right door of the du­plex led to a first-floor apart­ment and was the in­tended tar­get of the SWAT raid, Ms. Cole­man said.”

But that didn’t stop the SWAT team from barg­ing into the fam­ily’s home, us­ing a “flash bang de­vice” be­fore round­ing up Ms. Werk­meis­ter, Mr. Wil­son and their chil­dren while wear­ing wear­ing faces masks and wield­ing as­sault ri­fles.

It took over an hour be­fore the au­thor­i­ties re­al­ized their er­ror. No one in the fam­ily had com­mit­ted a crime. The po­lice had no war­rant. And of­fi­cers should have known they had the wrong ad­dress, ac­cord­ing to the suit filed by the fam­ily in Au­gust 2015.

This show of reck­less force by the Pitts­burgh po­lice is the re­sult of sloppy and care­less work. Res­i­dents ex­pect law en­force­ment to be swift and ef­fec­tive, but they also ex­pect that the po­lice are do­ing their due dili­gence and will al­ways to make sure they are go­ing af­ter real crim­i­nals.

The care­less­ness dis­played in this case has now cost the city $80,000. Ms. Cole­man says that the fam­ily had to re­build its trust for the po­lice and Ms. Werk­meis­ter still can’t sleep away from her chil­dren.

To err is hu­man and po­lice of­fi­cers are hu­man. But the spe­ical trust we place in them im­poses a higher level of re­spon­si­bil­ity than most jobs. Hope­fully a les­son has been learned.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.