Reassessing the use of no-holds-barred raids can protect police and the public – Press Telegram
Last year, Los Angeles had 397 murders, the most since 2007. Across the state, homicides are up jumped 41% and aggravated assault by 18% since the start of the pandemic. Across the United States, Americans are facing crime levels not seen in two decades.
Not only are civilians directly affected by these problems, but the crime wave is putting an even greater strain on police departments as officers face increased risks on the job.
As policymakers seek practical measures to protect law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, one practice ripe for improvement and commonly overlooked is the implementation and conduct of warrantless raids.
No-knock raids are conducted using court-sanctioned search warrants, which lack the standard knock-and-announce element that most searches involve. Raids are often carried out by SWAT teams in the early morning or late at night to catch suspects off guard.
Proponents of no-holds-barred raids argue that they minimize the suspect’s opportunity to harm a police officer, evade arrest or destroy evidence while promoting public safety. However, when officers are not required to knock and make their presence known, botched raids often occur, resulting in serious injury and death to both civilians and law enforcement officers.
The infamous Breona Taylor was killed during a raid in Louisville, Kentucky in March 2020 after her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot and killed an officer, unaware that the intruders were police officers. Attempted murder charges against Walker were dismissed by prosecutors because of the conflict caused by the search.
Since the “war on drugs” campaign, which began in the 1970s and gained momentum in the 1980s, there has been a significant increase in the use of prohibition subscriptions. In the early 1980s, law enforcement agencies are believed to have used restraining orders or “swift knocks” on 1500 times a year. Today, it is estimated that more than 20,000 raids are conducted each year.
A new report from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—No-Knock Raids: Exploring Risk, Controversy, and Constitutionality— explores the realities of law enforcement practices that often lead to deadly unintended consequences for both police officers and civilians.
A review of 818 SWAT deployments in 11 states between 2010 and 2013 found that 62% — to find drugs; of these, 60% used forced entry. In the period from 2010 to 2016. 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers were killed during forced searches. Officers make up 10% of deaths while executing standard knock-and-knock search warrants 20% fatal related to standing orders.
These raids have become far more dangerous for police officers than ever expected. Using warrantless raids for relatively small drug investigations or to execute a standard arrest warrant may not be the wisest use of such practices, given the risks and dangers involved.
Several counties and municipalities across the country have enacted outright bans on the use of seamless raids, including the city of Pomona, California, who made it a unanimous vote. The cities of Louisville (Kentucky), Killeen (Texas) and Santa Fe (New Mexico) also banned the use of such raids. San Antonio, without any tragedy or controversy, limited use of no-knock raids with Police Chief William McManus saying they would only be used when “immediate circumstances present a serious danger to the public or officers.” He went on to explain that “reducing the possibility of serious injury or death outweighs the need to recover illegal drugs or contraband.”
All states now need well-trained and led police forces with clear goals and strategies to deal with violent crime on the streets, rather than continued overuse of practices that unnecessarily put officers’ lives at risk.
Nino Marchese is director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Criminal Justice Task Force and author of ALEC’s new report No Knock Raids: Examining the Risk, Controversy and Constitution.