'You never know what you're gonna get': Retired Philly cop on the dangers of serving warrants

Paul Kurtz
August 22, 2019 - 6:52 pm

Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The shootout that left six police officers wounded in North Philadelphia began when a tactical team attempted to serve a warrant. Former Philadelphia Police Sgt. Lee Rominiecki, a retired officer with decades of experience in handling one of the most dangerous aspects of the job, discusses parts of the job that isn't known to many. 

"As we're entering a home we were gonna serve a warrant, I always said a little prayer, 'God, get us through this, please,'" said Rominiecki, who explains that the first few minutes of a raid are crucial.

"That's when my stomach flutters. Once you get through the door you see who's in the house, you separate the people. You have enough police officers with you that will watch the people in the house because you have to search them first to see if they have drugs or weapons, which they could use against us.

"It's like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get when you go through that door," he added.

Rominiecki served on the force from 1973 to 1994, a much different time when cops served warrants with .38-caliber revolvers, which are pop guns compared to the automatic weapons that many use today. 

"And you look at the drugs that you're using today, how powerful they are. You take something like fentanyl, and if someone is on that, they're crazed. This is what the police have to deal with today, it's a tougher situation," he said. 

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After serving a warrant, there's a "feeling of euphoria afterward among the police officers that served that warrant," he explained.

"No. 1, we made it through safely. We got drugs off the street, we locked up some bad guys. And we survived, that's the thing."

Despite better training and assistance from SWAT teams, a raid can sideways at any moment, as seen in Nicetown last week. 

"Anytime there's a high-profile situation, I guarantee you police departments all over this nation are looking at what happened. They look at what went well, what went bad and they improve on it."