Growing debate over "no-knock" warrants

Photo courtsey: MGN
Photo courtsey: MGN(KKTV)
Published: Jun. 14, 2020 at 11:08 PM CDT
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Part of the nationwide push for police reform includes banning “no-knock” warrants. The controversial practice has been in the spotlight since the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

Friday, the Louisville city council unanimously voted to ban the use of “no-knock” warrants in response to Taylor’s death. She was shot and killed by police who were serving a “no-knock” warrant in her home. Her death sparked outrage and is being mentioned in protests across the county along with George Floyd.

Jim Palmer, Executive Director with the Wisconsin Professional Police Association is weighing in on the issue and giving insight on these kind of warrants in Wisconsin. “I understand and appreciate that the use of no knock warrants is being seriously evaluated not just by law enforcement but lawmakers,” said Palmer.

A “no-knock” warrant allows police to enter a home or business without announcing themselves. Palmer says they aren't used much in Wisconsin generally but when they are, Milwaukee is a place you would see them used more often. It’s Milwaukee where officer Matthew Rittner was shot and killed while serving a no-knock warrant in 2019.

Palmer says recent events have shown how these warrants can be dangerous for both law enforcement and civilians. “They typically tend to be deployed in situations like drug raids where that element of surprise is really necessary,” said Melissa Murray, NYU Law Professor.

Officers were serving a drug warrant when they entered Breonna Taylor’s home where she was sleeping with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend says he thought it was an intruder and opened fire. Officers returned fire, hitting Breonna Taylor eight times fatally. Drugs were not found in the home.

The officers were put on administrative leave and protesters continue to call for charges against them in Taylor’s death.

It’s estimated that no knock warrants are used 20,000 times each year across the country. Following Taylor’s death, federal legislation has been introduced to ban them nationwide.

“It should seriously be looked at in terms of defining who can execute them,” Palmer says in the case of Breonna Taylor the officers were plain clothes officers that weren’t even on a SWAT team. “That’s troubling,” said Palmer. In Wisconsin, to understand the impact of the no knock warrant, Palmer says more research is needed to find out how often they are used, and the outcome when they are used.

“There are a range of ways we can address this law enforcement strategy to make sure we're being as safe as possible,” he said.

Breonna Taylor was an EMT. Her family says she saved lives for a living and continue to seek justice in her death.