Criminal Injustice - No-Knock Warrants
On Wednesday 2nd February 2022, in the same city where George Floyd’s death sparked global outrage, 22-year-old Amir Locke died at the hands of police. As seen on body-cam footage at 6.48 am, the SWAT team used a key to enter the apartment.
Within less than 10 seconds of the officers entering the apartment, the following happens:
· They began to shout, “Police search warrant!” They also shout “Hands!” and “Get on the ground!”.
· The video shows an officer kicking a section of a sofa, where Amir Locke was sleeping under a blanket.
· Amir is seen to rise from under the blanket and is holding a pistol.
· Amir Locke is killed.
Amir Locke was a door dash driver and due to an increase in carjackings in the area, he had legally obtained a gun for protection.
Following George Floyd’s death, Minneapolis Police Department restricted their use of ‘no-knock warrants’ as part of a wide-ranging set of reforms. This meant that in most cases, officers were required to ‘knock and announce’ their presence, giving occupants reasonable time to respond.
According to Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman, the SWAT team had both a ‘no-knock warrant’ and a regular warrant. There are also questions regarding the timing of the warrant, as Minnesota law states that ‘no-knock warrants’ must be carried out between 7 am and 8 pm.
No-knock search warrants grant officers entrance to a premises, without giving notice of either their permission to do so or the purpose of the search. Such warrants are usually granted when there is suspicion that knocking/making those inside aware of the police presence, would lead to the destruction of evidence or increase the likelihood of danger.
The significance of ‘no-knock warrants’ has increased over time, as the support for the ‘war on drugs’ gained traction. This has led to an increase from around 1,500 a year in the 1980s, to between 60,000 – 70,000 a year in 2010.
Following the death of George Floyd, Major Jacob Frey in order to address the subsequent unrest, stated that ‘no-knock warrants’ were banned for all but exigent circumstances. Years on, this has been found out to be a lie, along with other ‘reforms’ introduced following tragedies. The same Police Department, in which the Major ‘banned’ such warrants in 2020 has filed for more ‘no-knock warrants’ (13), than regular warrants (12) in 2022.
The shortfall in promises and reform is constantly repeating itself. This can be seen in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and also Breonna Taylor. In March 2020, police who had been investigating two men who were believed to be selling marijuana, received a warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home as she had previously dated one of the men in question. Ms. Taylor’s apartment was a significant distance from the two men’s residence; however, a judge had granted a warrant to search the apartment.
Shortly after midnight officers used a battering ram to enter the apartment of Emergency Room Technician, Breonna Taylor. As Ms. Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker slept, they were awoken by the loud banging and went to investigate, fearing it was Ms. Taylor’s ex. They both called out and as the door was busted open, Mr. Walker fired his gun once hitting an officer in the thigh. The officers began firing blindly into the apartment, hitting Ms. Taylor 5 times.
The officers had, prior to the raid sent the onsite ambulance away and therefore, as Ms. Taylor lay there dying, she received no medical aid from any officers.
The ‘no-knock warrant’ granted, was removed prior to the raid and therefore required the officers to announce themselves. Following the incident, there have been many contradictory statements and major police report errors.
This led to the introduction of the Kentucky Bill ‘House Bill 21’ or Breonna’s Law. This would have completely banned ‘no-knock warrants’ and required alcohol and drug testing for any officers involved in deadly incidents. However, by the time it was signed by Governor Andy Beshear, it had been reduced to ‘restricting’ no-knock warrants and no mandate for testing.
Campaigners have called for stronger police reform, stating that weakened reform in Minneapolis allowed for history to repeat itself in the death of Amir Locke. The fear is that the performative politics that takes place following a tragedy, only satisfies the police unions and politicians, while the community suffers.
Further nonsensical political movements on police reform can also be found in States like New York, with Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing the new state law banning the use of chokeholds by officers. Unfortunately, this had been outlawed by the NYPD in 1993 and did not prevent the death of Eric Garner, who died at the hands of police as they used the brutal practice of a chokehold.
As long as politics and police unions continue to have a relationship that involves the monetary contribution to campaigns, the watering down of legislative reform will serve no purpose in protecting citizens from biased individuals and institutions.