Reckless show of force
Careless policing leads to settlement, trauma
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.