7 April 2022
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey unveiled earlier this week a “ban on no-knock search warrants” — but city police officers still can enter places without announcing their presence in some cases. The new policy, which takes effect Friday, comes nearly two months after a Minneapolis police officer killed Amir Locke, reigniting a national debate on the use of no-knock search warrants. Here’s a rundown of what the new policy does — and doesn’t — do.
What does this policy do?
The new policy prohibits Minneapolis police officers from applying for no-knock search warrants, which would allow them to enter a location without first knocking or announcing their presence. It also prohibits them from asking other agencies to “execute” a no-knock search warrant on their behalf, or executing them for other agencies.
Officers can still apply for “knock and announce” search warrants — which would generally require them to wait 20 seconds before entering a location during daylight hours and 30 seconds before entering during nighttime hours (between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.). Those requirements, however, can be waived if there are “exigent circumstances.” The city says officers may enter immediately “to prevent imminent harm or to provide emergency aid,” to prevent “imminent destruction or removal of evidence” (except narcotics), to prevent “imminent escape of a suspect” or when in “hot pursuit.”
Howie Padilla, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis Police Department, said officers will “rely on their experience, their training and their own observations” to determine if an instance meets the qualifications to warrant entering without announcing their presence. For example, he said, officers could enter immediately if they see something that indicates a person is in immediate danger or hear someone screaming for help. He said the chief sent officers information about the policy change on Tuesday.
What will this change mean for officers?
No-knock search warrants are still legal under Minnesota law — though state legislators are debating whether to change that. Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman said in a statement earlier this week that she hopes the new policy will strengthen “our ability to mitigate the risk of harm to occupants and officers during searches and reflects our commitment to protecting lives.”
Local activists say they will be watching closely to see whether the new policy restricts the number of times officers enter without announcing their presence, or whether it falls short, as they feel past restrictions have done.
How will people know if officers are still entering without knocking?
Frey’s announcement said the city “will begin to develop a public-facing, online dashboard to track forced entries executed by MPD.” Padilla said they will be building the system from scratch and hope to launch it in the “coming months.” The system, he said, will track the type of warrant, whether police forced their way inside or had consent to enter, whether the search occurred during the daytime or nighttime and demographic information.
A Star Tribune review of available court records found that MPD personnel had filed for, and obtained, at least 13 applications for no-knock or nighttime warrants in roughly the first month of the year — more than the 12 standard search warrants sought in that same span. Those figures are almost certainly an undercount, because some warrant applications are filed under seal for various reasons.
The city said it plans to hire two civilians to help review how officers handle “high-risk” and nighttime warrants. Padilla said they hope to post the openings for those positions in a matter of weeks.
What do people think about the policy?
Frey called the new policy “among the most forward-looking and extensive in the nation.” Others urged him to go further. Both the Racial Justice Network and the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union encouraged Frey to eliminate “loopholes” that still allow officers to enter without first announcing their presence. “No-knock warrants, and knock-and-announce warrants that still allow immediate entry, have injured and killed too many people, especially people of color,” the ACLU said in a statement.
The Minneapolis Police Federation, the union representing city officers, hasn’t yet commented on the new policy.