WKMG News: A Melbourne officer is off the job after the city’s SWAT team raided the wrong house.
I was a cop for 21 years. I spent 6 years as a general detective, 10 as a narcotics detective and 3+ on a fugitive task force. Which means, I’ve served a shit ton of search warrants and I’ve kicked a shit ton of doors. So, believe me when I tell you…this is not good.
Making forced entry into a home is inherently one of the most dangerous things cops do. Even when you hit the right house, the potential for something bad happening is very high. The absolute worst thing that can happen, which is the biggest concern, is causing an innocent person to be injured or killed. Obviously, when you raid the wrong house the potential for that greatly increases, because everyone there is innocent.
As soon as I saw this headline, I knew immediately what happened. Reading the article confirmed that. I have been involved in every aspect of a search warrant. I’ve been the detective that worked the case and presented the probable cause affidavit before a judge to get the order signed. I’ve been the guy assigned to legally identify the house to be searched by obtaining the physical address, typing out a physical description of what it looks like and physically taking photos of the house. I’ve also been on the entry to team that kicks in the door and secures the house so it can be safely searched by detectives and evidence collection officers.
So, what went wrong here? The detective that worked the case admitted that he never physically went to the house to identify it. Nor did he assign someone else to do it. He got lazy and decided to let technology do the work for him. He eventually admitted to doing all his intel and surveillance work via Google Maps. Now, as luck would have it, not only am I someone who has executed a lot of search warrants, I’m also someone who lives at an address that is associated with the wrong house on Google Maps. Getting an Uber or food delivery to my house is a complete nightmare. So, I’m here to tell you that relying on Google Maps as the sole means of identifying a house that you plan to raid with a SWAT team, is a bad idea.
This is all assuming the detective didn’t just screw up when he went to street view to screen shot a pic of the house and type up the physical description. This seems even more likely.
Fortunately, in this case no one was hurt. But the SWAT team did hit the house presented to them on the search warrant, which was the wrong house, and scared the shit out of the poor woman who lived there. The SWAT team was told this was a drug house so the woman was handcuffed and searched. Moments later, officers saw the suspects they were looking for walk out of the house across the street. Oops. There’s the drug house.
The detective that was responsible for all of this resigned shortly thereafter. As well he should. This job isn’t for him. Raiding someone’s house is a big fucking deal. It’s the most invasive thing cops do. Our home is sacred ground. Someone wrote a whole constitution about it. So, if you’re going to invade someone’s home you had better make sure you take every available step to not only ensure that a judge agrees, based on your investigation, that there is probable cause to believe evidence of criminal activity will be found there AND you had better make sure you are 1000% sure that there is no possible way you’re about to raid the wrong damn house.
Cops took a big hit public relations hit here but believe me when I say, the cops that hit that house were even happier to see this guy forced to resign than you were. They don’t go out there every day and put their lives on the line for lazy-ass detectives that would rather put innocent people and other cops in jeopardy, than to do their damn job. They go out there for you. Trust me. I’m one of you now.