The no-knock warrant is a deadly drug war relic that needs to be abolished
We’ve written before about the dangers no-knock warrants pose to the rights, and lives, of law abiding citizens like Amir Locke, who was shot and killed during a no-knock raid in Minneapolis.
There are a number of questions about such raids. But the biggest is why this holdover from the depths of the War on Drugs is still used today?
Turns out, the trend is not to use no-knock raids:
“You have to go back years to understand why we have no knocks,” said Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association. “They were developed as a tool, through courts, for the preservation of evidence … primarily crack cocaine. That’s no longer the case, and hasn’t been for at least ten years. (We)’ve been strongly teaching, advocating, for other alternatives.”
Other options taught are designed for officers to avoid the so-called ‘fatal funnel’ created by SWAT teams moving through a doorway to confront a potentially armed suspect — and most of those options have officers using time, distance, cover, and concealment to take custody of either evidence or a wanted person while lessening the risk of confrontation.
High-profile shootings by police officers over the last few years, the shooting of officers during execution of warrants, and the ubiquity of video footage showing just how risky and dangerous these raids are, have all contributed to police departments moving away from no-knock warrants.
And yet they still are, because the drug war mentality’s roots are very deep:
Peter Kraska, a researcher at Eastern Kentucky University who’s studied warrants and policing, said that no-knock warrants should be as difficult to obtain as they are dangerous to carry out. After Locke was shot, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced that Kraska would be advising the city on warrant policy.
“This (practice) has devolved into a mess once, it will again. Just stop. Just quit doing it,” Kraska said. “Put legislation in place that brings back the original intent of the Fourth Amendment — you’ve got to get a warrant, have to knock and announce, have to give proper notice, have to give time to answer the door, and if you need to engage in a risky arrest situation or volatile, dangerous arrest situation, figure out a different way to do it than to bust down a private resident’s door and manufacture a really dangerous situation.”
And there is a move to end their use:
At least four states — Florida, Oregon, Connecticut and Virginia — have banned the no-knock warrants, while other states have enacted laws that stop just short of doing so by only allowing them in certain circumstances. A host of others have enacted other changes, like requiring departments to keep data or officers serving warrants to use body-worn cameras.
Much more needs to be done, not just to get us back to old-fashioned Fourth Amendment procedures for getting warrants, but also for saving lives – officers and civilians alike.