Washington limits police militarization and no-knock warrants
The militarization of state and local police departments remains a big problem. But some state lawmakers are taking action to cut down on the amount of military hardware finding its way into police hands.
The latest to do so is Washington, where lawmakers have passed a series of reforms on militarization, plus a ban on no-knock warrants:
…prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from acquiring or using “military equipment.” The law defines the following as “military equipment.”
firearms and ammunition of .50 caliber or greater
armed or armored drones
long-range acoustic hailing devices
directed energy systems
electromagnetic spectrum weapons
A ban on mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) in the original House version was amended out of the bill in the Senate.
We get it: MRAPs look cool. But do local police really need mine-resistant vehicles? On the bill’s other provisions banning no-knock warrants:
Under the law, police are prohibited from seeking and courts cannot issue a search or arrest warrant granting an express exception to the requirement for the officer to provide notice of his or her office and purpose when executing the warrant. Police can only enter a building “if, after notice of his or her office and purpose, he or she be refused admittance.”
The enactment of HB1054 effectively nullifies and makes irrelevant several Supreme Court opinions that give police across the U.S. legal cover for conducting no-knock raids.
In the 1995 case Wilson v. Arkansas, the Supreme Court established that police must peacefully knock, announce their presence, and allow time for the occupants to open the door before entering a home to serve a warrant. But the Court allowed for “exigent circumstance” exceptions if police fear violence, if the suspect is a flight risk, or if officers fear the suspect will destroy evidence.
As journalist Radley Balko notes, police utilized this exception to the fullest extent, “simply declaring in search warrant affidavits that all drug dealers are a threat to dispose of evidence, flee or assault the officers at the door.”
Small but important steps toward more rational policing that has a greater respect for – and adherence to – the constitution.