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States, Cities Limit No-Knock Warrants After Taylor Case

Emmanuel Remy and his children looked out of their Columbus, Oh., window last November to see a dozen tactical officers preparing to serve a warrant for the previous residents — suspected drug dealers. In the five months since Remy had bought the property, detectives had shown up with warrants three times. “They didn’t even do a simple address search to see that the property had transferred,” says Remy, a Columbus City Council member. Amid national calls for policing changes, Remy sponsored a city ordinance to limit no-knock warrants, the kind that Louisville police obtained to enter Breonna Taylor’s home. The council unanimously passed it, and the mayor signed it, Stateline reports.

Now Columbus police officers can use no-knock warrants only for higher-level felonies.  Officers must conduct at least two hours of surveillance beforehand. Body-worn cameras must be activated. “We determined that it was probably a tool they needed access to,” Remy said, “but there were enough safeguards in place that it wouldn’t be frivolously done.” More than two dozen other states and localities have introduced or finalized policies to restrict no-knock warrants since June. Virginia could join Florida and Oregon in banning them if the governor signs a recently approved bill. Some lawmakers and police groups oppose banning no-knock warrants, saying they are useful in dangerous situations. “The element of surprise is one of the best tools,” said Wayne Huggins of the Virginia State Police Association. “When you have to knock and announce, you’ve given up the element of surprise.” No-knock warrants became a popular technique in the late 1980s. The warrants, typically issued by a judge, allow law enforcement to enter a home without notice. This practice can give police major advantages: suspects can’t hide evidence and are less likely to be ready with a weapon.