No-knock warrants have become a national concern following the killing of Breonna Taylor and Amir Locke by police executing those types of warrants. Judges are the ones to sign off on no-knock warrant requests and rarely question the merit of them, according to an investigation by The Washington Post. Though the warrants aren’t meant to be used often, they have become common for drug searches, often leading to fatal interactions.
Criminal justice experts found police carry out thousands of no-knock warrant searches a year with little monitoring from their agencies. However, there is no exact number of how many warrants are executed. WashPo reported none of the 50 state court systems keep track of the use of no-knock warrants nor do any state government agencies keep track of the people harmed or killed during the raids.
WashPo’s database of police shootings found 21 no-knock raids have killed 22 people since 2015. Of those 22 people, 13 of them were Black or Hispanic.
More on The Washington Post’s investigation:
The full tally of fatalities from no-knock warrants is unknown: The Post database includes at least 24 other searches that ended in fatal shootings of civilians, but court officials and police departments were unable or declined to provide records clarifying whether the raids involved no-knock warrants. In 2017, the New York Times examined SWAT team raids and found that at least 81 civilians and 13 officers had died from 2010 through 2016 in searches that involved both no-knock warrants and knock-and-announce warrants.
The requirements for no-knock warrants may vary by jurisdiction, but are generally guided by a 1997 Supreme Court opinion involving a forced-entry search by police. The court ruled that police seeking to conduct these searches must have a “reasonable suspicion” why knocking and announcing could be dangerous or result in the destruction of evidence. Police are generally expected to make this argument to judges when seeking approval for a no-knock warrant.
The investigation included interviews from people who defended the raids and those who experienced them first hand. Marlon O’Neal of St. Louis was asleep in his basement when he was awakened by who he thought were intruders. SWAT officers had flooded into his home and the home of one of his neighbors who was shot and killed by one of the officers, per WashPo.
Patrick Yoes, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said no-knock warrants carry a negative stigma. “In reality, there’s a whole lot of assessment that goes into determining whether a no-knock warrant is going to be executed,” said Yoes.
However, a few states have placed limitations on no-knock warrant policies following fatal interactions including Maryland, South Carolina and most recently Minnesota following the shooting and killed of Amir Locke.
“The whole system has devolved into a perfunctory bureaucracy that doesn’t take any care or due diligence for how it’s done. That wouldn’t be as big of a deal, except that we’re talking about a really extreme policing approach — breaking into people’s homes with a surprise entry with the possibility of finding evidence,” said Peter Kraska, professor at Eastern Kentucky University professor who has studied no-knock raids for over 30 years via WashPo.