ATLANTA — ATLANTA – The Orlando Police Department has banned its officers from serving no-knock warrants, the second city to make such a move in recent weeks.
Last month, the city of Louisville passed “Breonna’s Law” that bans the use of no-knock warrants there. 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville police who broke down her door while serving a no-knock warrant at her apartment. Congress is considering a police reform bill that includes a nationwide ban.
For at least 40-years, law enforcement officers across the country have used a tactic that is the subject of increasing controversy. Still, many law enforcement agencies across the country continue to use no-knock warrants.
The tactic grew out of the nation’s war on drugs. It allows officers to enter a home by force without first announcing their purpose.
Major John Hutcheson of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center says without the no-knock warrant, investigations lose the “element of surprise” when attempting to arrest a drug suspect.
“That gives them time to go and destroy that evidence such as flushing it down the commode, things like that,” says Maj. Hutcheson.
No-knock warrants are not used in all drug investigations. A judge has to approve each warrant.
Major Hutcheson tells me officers have to gather evidence to prove that a no-knock warrant is needed. The reasons may include information that their suspect poses a threat.
“That there are a lot of firearms in the residence, the past criminal history, propensity of violence,” says Hutcheson.
In 2006, Atlanta police issued a no-knock warrant at the wrong home, shooting and killing 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston.
In 2014, Habersham County deputies injured a 19-month-old child with a stun grenade during a no-knock entry.
Major Hutcheson says when properly researched and executed, no-knock warrants can work.
“We teach here at the training center to not cut corners, to make sure we lay the groundwork,” says Hutcheson.
Still, there are those who believe it’s time to say “no” to the no-knock warrant.