Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Breonna Taylor's death behind efforts to ban or restrict no-knock warrants

No-knock warrants became a popular policing technique in the late 1980s. The warrants, typically issued by a judge, allow law enforcement to enter a home without notice to anyone inside. This practice can give police two major advantages: One, a suspect can’t hide evidence. Two, a suspect is less likely to be ready with a weapon.

But even with those advantages, the warrants have been dangerous — for both residents and law enforcement, reported Stateline.

The Breonna Taylor case was a tragic example. Although a judge approved a no-knock warrant, the officers claim they knocked and said “police” before using a battering ram to get into Taylor’s apartment. Inside, her startled boyfriend fired a gun at the officers, injuring one. Officers shot back, striking Taylor multiple times, killing her. Taylor’s boyfriend later said he didn’t hear any announcement from the officers and thought they were intruders.

Since Taylor’s death, lawmakers in 10 states have introduced or pre-filed legislation to ban or restrict no-knock warrants. A handful of local jurisdictions are discussing it. And at least 13 local governments or police departments — from Baltimore to Killeen, Texas — have banned the warrants or restricted their use.

Some criminal justice experts caution that banning the practice doesn’t take into account possible loopholes.

“Much of the problem is … what we call quick-knock warrants,” said Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies.

For example, Kraska said, officers could knock but enter a home right away, thereby potentially creating the same risks as a no-knock warrant. And there are situations when being able to enter a home without knocking could be essential, he said, such as when officers are dealing with an active shooter.

“At the end of the day, any kind of warrant service tends to be dangerous, period,” said Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, a 40,000-member organization in the United States and Canada that trains police units. “The question is: What actions can law enforcement take to reduce that risk?”

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