Is Minneapolis’ ban on ‘no knock’ warrants sufficient to stop one other Amir Locke?

A brand new ban on “no knock” warrants in Minneapolis, enacted within the wake of Amir Locke’s dying, is being known as one of many strongest of its form within the nation.

The coverage, which took impact April 8, now not permits the Minneapolis Police Department to use for or execute warrants with out knocking and making their presence identified first. It mandates that officers repeatedly knock, announce themselves and wait a minimum of 20 seconds in the course of the day or 30 seconds at evening earlier than coming into.

Locke, a 22-year-old Black man who was an aspiring musician, was killed when SWAT officers carried out a “no knock” warrant within the early morning hours of Feb. 2 at a Minneapolis house. The officers discovered him on a sofa coated in a blanket with a gun in his hand. An officer shot him thrice.

Fury adopted when it emerged that Locke was not the topic named within the warrant.

Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on April 6 introduced no costs could be filed in Locke’s dying, however admitted Locke would possibly nonetheless be alive if it wasn’t for the raid.

“Amir Locke is a victim. This tragedy may not have occurred absent the no-knock warrant used in this case,” they stated in a joint assertion.

The rallying cry at protests — “end ‘no knocks’ now!” — is now cemented as coverage. 

People gather outside the Hennepin County Government Center
People collect outdoors the Hennepin County Government Center on April 6 to decry a scarcity of costs after the dying of Amir Locke in Minneapolis.Stephen Maturen / Getty Images file

However, with the brand new laws police can forgo asserting underneath “exigent circumstances”: to stop hurt, present emergency assist, stop destruction of proof (excluding narcotics) and stop escape of a suspect. Similar exigent circumstances are customary in different metropolis and state insurance policies. 

Accountability is constructed into the coverage, too. It will create an internet dashboard to trace compelled entries by the division, and there can be an unbiased evaluate of high-risk and nighttime warrants instantly afterward.

Minneapolis is becoming a member of 21 cities and 29 states which have laws or insurance policies limiting “no knocks,” based on Campaign Zero, a police reform group that helped Minneapolis create the brand new coverage.

Five states — Connecticut, Florida, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia — have banned them altogether.

Katie Ryan, chief of employees for Campaign Zero, known as Minneapolis’ transfer “a huge victory.”

“I think this is one of the most forward-thinking, most restrictive policies for search warrants in the nation,” she stated. 

If this coverage was in place in Locke’s case, he would nonetheless be alive, “because they were at his house at night,” she added.

“They either would have been there during the day, they would have waited 20 to 30 seconds, they maybe wouldn’t have been there in the first place, because they would have had to make sure that the individual they were seeking was home, and they weren’t,” she said. 

Ryan said the policy has a “really tight definition” of exigent circumstances to prevent warrants from escalating without urgent need and includes a more robust warrant application process to determine risk. 

DeRay Mckesson, co-founder of Campaign Zero, emphasizes how crucial wait times are in serving warrants, especially as Locke was killed within seconds of the raid. 

“Louisville waits 15 seconds, Maine and Maryland 20 seconds, Minneapolis is 20 seconds in the day, 30 seconds at night — there is no other place in the country, city or state that has 30 seconds at all. What they did has literally not been done,” Mckesson said. 

He said this policy is crucial because it regulates how all search warrants are performed to prevent knock-and-announce warrants from turning into “quick knocks.”

He pointed to the case of Breonna Taylor, the Black EMT who was killed during a raid in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2020. Police had gotten a “no knock” warrant but claimed they executed it as a knock-and-announce because they knocked and yelled before entering her apartment. 

“The reason why the change in Minneapolis is actually so big, the real way to do this anywhere is to actually restrict the execution of all search warrants so that neither can turn into raids,” McKesson said. 

Minneapolis police enter an apartment on Feb. 2 moments before the shooting of Amir Locke, 22.Minneapolis Police Department via AP

But not everyone is on board. 

Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith, the spokesperson for the National Police Association, warned that the ban could restrict law enforcement’s ability to “proactively stop crime and conduct appropriate investigations.”

“Waiting 20 to 30 seconds is a long time for someone to not just run out the back door, but to get a firearm to start shooting through the door,” she said. “Remember, police officer murders are on the rise.” 

In 2021, 61 officers died from felonious assaults by firearm, a 36 percent jump from 2020, the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum reported

She explained “no knocks” are “extremely rare” and typically require multiple layers of authorization, including by a judge. However, Minneapolis was using the raids quite frequently. In 2020, Mayor Jacob Frey said the city’s police department executed an average of 139 “no knock” warrants a year.  

In the Locke case, Brantner Smith noted the subject of the warrant was Locke’s cousin Mekhi Camden Speed, who was 17 at the time and wanted in a homicide investigation in the January murder of Otis Elder. At the time, Speed had been on probation for another shooting, and he had violated his probation phrases. 

Brantner Smith said a “no knock” was used because “Mr. Speed was a convicted, violent criminal” who “should have been in jail” and the warrant was for the safety of officers.

“The biggest lesson learned in this situation is not ‘let’s not do no-knock warrants,’” she stated. “The problem is a lax criminal justice system.”

‘No knocks’ are deadly on both sides of the door

“No knock” warrants were born under President Richard Nixon in the 1970s as part of the war on drugs, said Rachel Moran, an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law who focuses on police accountability. 

“You can think of police bursting into the home of purported drug dealers and snatching up the drugs before the dealer has the time to flush it down the toilet,” she said. 

Their use was popularized with the militarization of police, Moran said. However, “no knock” warrants were thrust under a harsh spotlight after Taylor’s death. 

“They’ve always been dangerous. ‘No knock’ warrants are too dangerous to justify their use,” Moran said. 

There is a lack of comprehensive data and oversight documenting such warrants and their impacts, but a New York Times study found that from 2010 to 2016, 94 people died during such operations. Eighty-one were civilians and 13 were law enforcement officers.

“No knocks” are also used in a racially disparate manner, Moran said.

Minnesota state officials mandated law enforcement agencies to report how often they use “no knocks” last year. Data from Sept. 1, 2021, to Feb. 2 show that of the 94 warrant subjects whose race were reported, 70 percent were Black, the Minnesota Post reported.

Alternatives to ‘no knocks’

Minneapolis is often compared to its twin city, St. Paul, which hasn’t carried out a “no knock” warrant since 2016, St. Paul police spokesperson Steve Linders told NBC News.

“The decision was made in the interest of safety for everyone involved,” Linders said. 

“Rather than force the issue, we’ll use time, distance and cover to achieve the desired outcome. For example, our SWAT team will establish a perimeter and call out people inside the home, apartment, building, etc. If we reach a point where it’s necessary to go in to look for a suspect, we’ll send in a robot or canine first, whenever possible,” he said, adding, “So far, it seems to be working well for us.”

In Louisville, Breonna’s Law was passed in June 2020, banning “no knock” warrants and requiring any Louisville Metro Police Department or Metro law enforcement to knock and wait a minimum of 15 seconds for a response. The state restricted their use in April. 

In 2020, St. Louis handed an ordinance to ban “no knocks” for drug instances, and San Antonio’s police chief stated he banned the apply for officers.

In September, the Justice Department positioned new limits on “no-knock” warrants to conditions the place an agent has grounds to imagine knocking and asserting would “create an imminent threat of physical violence to the agent and/or another person.”

Still a ways to go

Still, Minneapolis’ policy could go further. 

“One way is a longer waiting period and the other, more importantly perhaps, I would have recommended that they ban nighttime entries,” Moran said. “Does this prevent a tragedy like what happened to Amir Locke? It makes it less likely. … I don’t know if that would have saved his life. I hope so, but I’m not sure.”

Johnathon McClellan, president of the Minnesota Justice Coalition, said the new policy is “too little, too late,” especially after Frey had proposed prior policies that claimed to ban “no knocks,” but didn’t. 

“We hope that it prevents the next Amir Locke. I think that the community is skeptical,” he said. 

He’s pushing for the state Legislature to pass a bill on “no knock” warrants, proposed in February in the wake of Locke’s death that awaits a final vote on the House floor.

“Amir Locke was not the subject of a warrant,” McClellan stated. “Amir was a child still trying to figure out his trajectory in life. Amir Locke could have been any one of us.”

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