During a nighttime search warrant of a trailer, which contained drug paraphernalia and firearms, a female subject complained a SWAT member used excessive force on her when she did not readily obey his commands. The officer denied this allegation.
Review of the Case:
On January 23, 2000, patrol officers conducted a vehicle stop in which they discovered an ex-felon in possession of two firearms, one of which was stolen. The ex-felon immediately began offering information regarding the possible location of several firearms, along with some methamphetamine. He also noted, during a second interview, seeing additional methamphetamine within the common area of a trailer and several firearms within the residence, one of which was a sawed-off, assault-style rifle. The ex-felon stated the individuals at the address were all using methamphetamine. In addition to his statements, numerous officers knew that persons residing at that residence were users of narcotics.
The next day an affidavit for a search warrant was authorized for criminal possession of firearms and illegal drugs. A nighttime search warrant was requested because it was believed conducting the search warrant under cover of darkness would be safer for the arresting officers, as well as the residents in the trailers. The SWAT officers wore police uniforms clearly marked with police identification. Minimal force was used to gain entry into the premises since the front door was open. Officers secured the site and detained the five suspects in the front of the residence.
The sergeant was then told a woman had a back injury; however, he had never heard any suggestion from the SWAT team members or suspects that force had been used against any person at the scene. When the plaintiff was taken into custody, she alleged an officer kicked her in the back when she was not quick to respond to his commands to be quiet. In the deposition of that officer, he stated the plaintiff did not obey commands to not move. She was on her hands and knees trying to get up when the officer placed his foot between her shoulder blades to keep her from getting up. At no time did the officer hear complaints of an injury.
During the search of all five suspects, it was discovered that one suspect had in her possession a small amount of a green leafy substance, a smoking pipe, an unknown white powdery substance, and handcuff keys attached to her beeper. The search of the residence revealed narcotics paraphernalia, including hypodermic devices and several smoking pipes. A sawed-off rifle, 22 long rifle, semi-automatic pistol, knives, numchuks, and daggers were also discovered. It was determined later, through an interview, the guns were sold for narcotics.
It was asserted the police department permitted and encouraged excessive force in this action and in other arrests and detentions of individuals who did not readily obey commands and that officers were allowed to violate plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. It was also stated in the complaint the police department had grossly failed to train its police officers in the fundamental law of arrest and detention and use of force and, therefore, acted negligently and/or deliberately indifferent in training and supervising its officers.