Breonna Taylor’s death in a hail of police gunfire in mid-March grimly illustrates the inherent danger of no-knock warrants.
Taylor and her boyfriend were taken by surprise in bed just before 1 a.m. when three Louisville police officers in plainclothes, authorized by a no-knock search warrant for drugs, crashed through the door of her home.
Not realizing the intruders were police, her boyfriend later said, he called 911, grabbed a gun and fired a shot, wounding one of them. Officers then unleashed more than 20 bullets.
Neither Taylor nor her boyfriend had a record of drug convictions, and police found no drugs in the apartment.
The city of Louisville has since banned no-knock warrants. Some other cities, including Houston and Memphis, have stopped using the warrants within the past year, too.
Reacting to the national protest movement against police brutality spurred by the deaths of George Floyd, Taylor and others, federal lawmakers from both major political parties and both houses have drafted bills that would outlaw no-knock warrants as part of sweeping reform of police practices.
Communities across Indiana and state legislators should take aim at no-knock warrants, as well.
The warrants allow police to enter a private premises without knocking or announcing their presence. Judges issue such warrants in cases where they agree that the announcement of a police presence would enable suspects to destroy evidence or harm officers.
No-knock warrants were first authorized under the administration of President Richard Nixon as part of a get-tough-on-crime approach. Use of the warrants was expanded during the war against drugs in the 1980s.
Law enforcement experts say no-knock warrants haven’t been used as much in recent years because they can endanger civilians and officers alike.
Radley Balko, an investigative journalist with the Washington Post and the author of the book “Rise of the Warrior Cop,” estimates that 8-10 innocent people are killed in no-knock raids annually in the United States.
“We probably see another 20 or 30 where someone who ... may have had some drugs in the house is killed,” Balko told NPR.
The legality of such warrants is called into question under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against searches and seizures deemed unreasonable by the law.
Most Hoosiers would agree that the idea of police breaking into your home without even announcing themselves would be unreasonable.
While no-knock warrants do help officers catch some criminals, the danger they pose easily outweighs the benefits. Both private citizens and police officers will be safer if the warrants are banned.
The Herald Bulletin, Anderson