Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Police followed procedure in raid: sergeant

Woman, 52, suing for damages

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A dramatic raid involving heavily armed police officers hauling a woman out of her home in handcuffs -- and later releasing her without charge -- is being painted as an unfortunate necessity of the job.

Officers involved in the 2009 incident took the witness stand Tuesday at a civil court jury trial in which their conduct is under a legal microscope.

Gerilyn Riedle, 52, has sued police for damages, claiming she's the victim of malicious arrest, false imprisonment and defamation of character. Six members of the public will ultimately decide the verdict.

"The investigation of drug dealers is an extremely serious piece of business and very dangerous," Sgt. Michael Brooker told jurors.

Brooker headed up the tactical support unit at the time they executed the search warrant.

'I just wanted to die. I really did. The bigness of it, the spectacle of it, it was absolutely incredible. I've never seen anything like it'

-- Gerilyn Riedle

Riedle's 19-year-old son was actually the target, as police received a tip he was dealing marijuana out of the home. A provincial magistrate had authorized members of the speciality police unit to do a "dynamic" entry which included setting off a flash bomb, breaking down the door and arresting everyone inside.

It was only a few hours later, once the proverbial smoke had cleared, that Riedle was released from custody and allowed to return home. Her son took responsibility for the 18 grams of marijuana and other paraphernalia found in his bedroom.

Brooker said Tuesday all proper procedures were followed and his officers acted exactly as prescribed by both the law and their extensive training. That included some surveillance of the Riedle home in East Kildonan to ensure there were no children, pregnant women or elderly folks inside.

If that were the case, police would have used less intrusive methods, he said.

Once it was determined the young target male, his girlfriend and mother were the only ones present, police utilized the authorization they had from the courts to burst inside and quickly take control of the situation by neutralizing any potential threats.

"We'd checked and balanced out everything," said Brooker. "We believed everyone in the residence was either part of what was going on, or had knowledge of what was going on."

Brooker said these types of tactics are needed during drug investigations because police often encounter members of organized crime, weapons and offenders who will do almost anything to escape arrest.

"The tactical support team is the ultimate use-of-force tool," he said. Brooker admitted it's "always a concern" someone not involved in criminal activity might be ensnared in this type of raid.

Despite being cleared of any wrongdoing, Riedle claims the damage was already done -- both to her property and her reputation, which forced her to move from the neighbourhood out of "humiliation."

"I just wanted to die. I really did," she testified Monday.

Riedle has no prior criminal record and has spent more than 30 years as a legal assistant at various city firms and the provincial prosecutions office.

"The bigness of it, the spectacle of it, it was absolutely incredible," she said. "I've never seen anything like it."

Riedle claims the officers didn't immediately identify themselves, leading her to believe she was the victim of a home invasion. But Brooker told court Tuesday his officers loudly announced their presence and were wearing dark clothing which had the word "Police" written in several locations.

"You can't miss it," he said.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 25, 2013 B3

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