Sorry About Terrorizing You…

how about some movie passes? From Radley Balko comes this story of a wrong door raid and the counties offer for compensation was some free movie passes. Yes, free movie passes.

Kenyan immigrant Nancy Njoroge had been living in the United States for a year when a Montgomery County SWAT team burst into her Gaithersburg apartment at 4 a.m., handcuffed her and her two teenage daughters, and searched her apartment, court records show. Police found nothing.

The reason: Njoroge lived in No. 202 of her apartment complex. The police had a search warrant for apartment 201.

After rejecting an offer from the county’s claims adjuster of a “couple of movie passes,” the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the county on the family’s behalf for unspecified damages, according to ACLU records filed in court.

The ACLU said the purpose of the lawsuit was to hold the police department accountable for its mistake. “Officers had but one apartment to locate, in a quiet and well-lit hallway in the dead of night, without distraction and with clearly marked doors and numbers,” ACLU lawyer Fritz Mulhauser said in a letter to the county.

Sounds fair to me, have your door kicked in, put on the floor handcuffed and had assualt weapons pointed at you at 4 am for doing nothing wrong….yeah movie passes, sounds reasonable.

Court records don’t give a clear reason why the police raided the wrong apartment, and the county attorney assigned to the case did not respond to inquiries for the story. But in court records, a SWAT team leader indicated that it was an isolated incident.

“In six years as the supervisor of the tactical section, I have led approximately 600 raids,” Sgt. Darin Magee, whose job was to lead the SWAT team to the correct apartment, said in a statement. “This is the first such error that I have made and I hope this will be considered when the situation is judged.”

I love this. Its always an isolated incident. And we have know way to verify if Sgt. Darin Magee is lying or not. Until quite recently there was no requirement to record anything about SWAT raids in Maryland. Whether they were successful or not, whether it was on the on the right address, whether drugs or whatever else was found, injuries, etc. All we have to go by is the word of a cop, who if he’s had more than one bad raid could affect his career (no incentive to lie there, nope). And the city/county has no reason to keep records an a huge incentive not too–lawsuits. Oh wait, I know how they can spin it, by not keeping records and not offering up a clear account of how many botched raids there have been, the police are protecting citizens from having to pay out large settlements for their incompetence. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Policing, US Politics, , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. Paul Barnes says:

    So, these SWAT teams are used in raids once every 3.5 days or so? That seems like a lot.

  2. SV says:

    The militarization of US police operations has been the subject of not an insignificant amount of study.

  3. G.A.Phillips says:

    So, these SWAT teams are used in raids once every 3.5 days or so? That seems like a lot.

    Parts of Maryland are ruff.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    The militarization of US police operations has been the subject of not an insignificant amount of study.

    Thats true, I’d say scrutiny, not study in that there is no systematic data that can be studied. AFAIK, only Maryland will be keeping track of raids and that is something relatively new. Other jusrisdiction will have nothing. Getting information will be nearly impossible, and the police deptarments, cities, etc. have incentives to not share such information.

    So, these SWAT teams are used in raids once every 3.5 days or so? That seems like a lot.

    SWAT is used nowadays to serve pretty routine warrants. Drug warrants on non-violent offenders: SWAT. Gambling–i.e. poker, betting on football, etc.: SWAT.

    Here’s a fun one where the armored personnel carrier got away from the SWAT morons. Prior to the tank hitting the car, a mother and her young daughter were in the car. The only arrest….traffic tickets, although they were looking for illegal weapons. Oh and they burned down the house, and chased a puppy into the burning house to die.

    From the initial story,

    And in the ultimate display of cruelty, a SWAT team member drove a dog trying to flee the home back into the inferno, where it met an agonizing death.

    Deputies then reportedly laughed as the dog’s owners came unglued as it perished in the blaze.

    So, stupid, macho, cruel and depraved SWAT team members.

    And of course, all of the above is quite within police department policies and guidelines. It is always within guidelines and policies.