OPP raids wrong apartment, holds innocent man at gunpoint
20/04/2011 11:46:00 AM
by Sameer Vasta
The mistake made by the Ontario Provincial Police shows us that our police need better processes and systems to help them make better decisions in the field.
A man in Arnprior, Ontario was woken up this past Friday by a stun grenade smashing through his window and by a group of armed individuals pointing a gun at him while he was dragged out of bed. While it may sound like a scary home invasion out of a thriller movie, it was instead a case of mistaken identity by the Ontario Provincial Police.
Steven Carrigan was pulled out of bed, naked, by an OPP tactical squad who were supposed to be arresting a neighbor on charges of possession of marijuana and a prohibited weapon. Instead, they got the apartment number wrong, exploding a stun grenade on Carrigan's son's bed — luckily, his son was not in bed at the time — and holding him at gunpoint before realizing their error.
The neighbor was later arrested, and the OPP sent out a press release claiming that the mission was a success. The police have now admitted that in fact, the officers did "slip up."
This is clearly a case of error through incompetence. If you have 20 people on an advanced tactical squad participating in a take-down, you would expect one of them would read the warrant, at some point in their "tactical" planning, to make sure they were targeting the right home. (If the warrant was wrong, then we have a whole other level of incompetence — the judge that issued the warrant should be held to task for their mistake.)
Another area of concern is the use of the stun grenade. The grenade exploded on Carrigan's son's bed, and had the son been asleep at the time, it could have caused significant injury to him, apart from the property damage it already did cause. But even if the police had targeted the right apartment, wouldn't the grenade just alert the suspect that something was going on? If the suspect was holding a weapon, wouldn't shooting a stun grenade through a window increase the likelihood of violence or an armed standoff, potentially harming innocent bystanders?
All in all, Carrigan escaped without physical harm (though the emotional damage may be lasting), and I'm sure the OPP will compensate for the property damages. The tactical squad's actions were not done maliciously, but they were also not done with the rigour that one would expect from our law enforcement officers.
In the end, this incident should not lead to severe punishment, but instead to better training and process; it should lead to a review of how the OPP conducts home take-downs and what kind of force it uses, and a better system for verifying tactical information before taking action — hopefully avoiding the possibility that this kind of event happens again.