A major change to policing might be on the horizon, and, surprisingly, leading the way is a Republican congressman.
The Washington Examiner reports that on Thursday Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a bill that, in Paul’s words, “would effectively ban no-knock warrants.”
A no-knock warrant, according to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, is a “search warrant authorizing police officers to enter certain premises without first knocking and announcing their presence or purpose prior to entering the premises.”
The Bill’s Inspiration
With all of the current protesting over the death of George Floyd, you might think that the Floyd incident inspired the bill. But, it is actually a different one – the death of Breonna Taylor.
Back in March, Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman from Kentucky, was shot by police who, as part of a drug-selling investigation, were executing a no-knock search warrant for her apartment. According to the officers at the scene, they returned fire after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had shot at them. One of the officers is said to have even been hit.
Taylor suffered at least eight gunshot wounds which led to her death.
Police lawfully obtained a no-knock search warrant, lawfully used it to enter an apartment, were shot at, and shot back in self-defense. But, many have taken issue with the incident, a federal investigation is underway, and Taylor’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Louisville Police Department.
While all of that is ongoing, this incident has now become the impetus for Paul’s bill, which is being called the “Justice for Breonna Taylor Act.”
“After talking with Breonna Taylor’s family, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s long past time to get rid of no-knock warrants,” Paul said. “This bill will effectively end no-knock raids in the United States.”
Indeed, the bill states that officers “may not execute a warrant that does not require the law enforcement officer serving the warrant to provide notice of his or her authority and purpose before forcibly entering the premises.”
One thing that we ought to remember is why no-knock warrants exist in the first place – here’s Ted Williams, a former Washington D.C. police detective:
[No-knocks] are allowed because police officers need — when serving warrants on some occasions — an element of surprise. There is an element of our community that is willing to kill police officers trying to do their jobs … I’m saddened by what happened in Kentucky.
This bill will certainly gain the support of Democrats, who are pushing much more extreme police reforms than this one, but it is unclear how popular it will be among Republicans. Republicans have long supported law enforcement, and this bill, by taking away the protection afforded by no-knock warrants, would seem to go in the opposite direction.