The SWAT team raid in Worcester last month that wrongly targeted an innocent family merits a full and impartial investigation — not an internal probe by the same law enforcement officers responsible for the raid to begin with.
The raid-gone-wrong also raises important questions about the procedures involving no-knock warrants, a court-issued order that allows law enforcement to raid a property without any notification to its residents. These warrants, long viewed as an important tool used to combat drug trafficking, must be executed with care; an independent review would expose any flaws in protocol and hold important lessons for police departments in other cities.
In Worcester, police stormed the apartment based on erroneous intelligence supplied by an informant. That might be understandable had the target of the raid, Shane B. Jackson Jr., not been arrested two weeks before at a different address in Worcester before being released on personal recognizance. Police had the relevant information in their own station.
And the victims of the raid — Marianne Diaz, a 23-year-old mother of two, her fiancé, and their roommate, who was injured — deserve a full explanation of why they were treated like dangerous criminals. Diaz, who was naked, was frisked after being forced to kneel on the ground at gunpoint with her two daughters. Adding to the humiliation, she was not allowed to dress for 10 minutes.
Unannounced SWAT raids are on the rise, and they’re going wrong at an alarming rate, sometimes tragically. A 7-year-old girl was shot in Detroit during a raid of her home in 2010; a grandfather was shot by mistake in Framingham four years ago in a SWAT raid.
An independent review of the Worcester raid is called for. “Nobody is willing to take accountability right now,” said the attorney for the family, Hector Piñeiro. “The local police department had a SWAT team of 10 people pointing weapons at a woman and her kids. Everyone is ducking responsibility in this case.”
In an era marked by a rise in police shootings and heightened tensions between police and the public they serve, Massachusetts authorities should not let this incident pass without a thorough review. It is a perfect opportunity for the attorney general’s office to step in. If officers or higher-ups violated the rules, they must be held accountable. On the other hand, if they all went by the book, then there’s clearly something wrong with the book, and Worcester police need to rewrite their SWAT procedures. No-knock warrants should not lead to flagrant civil rights violations.