After multiple tries in recent years, Minnesota lawmakers are again attempting to ban the use of no-knock warrants — which allow police to enter without knocking or announcing themselves — statewide, calling the tactic unnecessary and dangerous to both the public and the police executing the warrant.
Framed by Democrats as a safety concern and violation of constitutional rights, this latest effort comes a little over a year after a Minneapolis SWAT team shot and killed 22-year-old Amir Locke during one of the raids in a downtown Minneapolis apartment.
Republicans and law enforcement advocacy groups have called no-knock warrants a useful tool in dangerous situations or to prevent the destruction of evidence, but proponents of the legislation hope to remove the controversial practice from the toolbox.
Authored by Rep. Brion Curran of Vadnais Heights, House File 2290 would prohibit courts from issuing or approving no-knock search warrants, which include any warrant that wouldn’t require officers to loudly announce themselves and wait at least 30 seconds before entering. The bill was heard in the House Public Safety Finance and Policy committee Wednesday night.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures, Curran said at the hearing, and the practice puts officers in danger as well. Nearly half of Minnesota residents own a gun, and an officer entering a home unannounced may put them in the line of fire of someone thinking they are protecting themselves.
“This is about our rights — it’s about our right to know for certain that when someone enters your home unannounced, you don’t need to second guess that person might be able to their right to protect your own, your privacy is something that cannot be taken away,” Curran said.
No-knock warrants came under nationwide scrutiny in 2020 when officers with the Louisville Police Department shot and killed 26-year-old Breonna Taylor during a similar raid. Minnesota lawmakers brought forward a proposal to ban the practice in recent years, but divided control in the last few legislative sessions caused the bill to stall out.
“I will always regret not pushing harder for that bill,” said DFL Rep. Athena Hollins, who carried the proposal a year before Locke’s death. “I honestly feel the weight of Amir Locke’s death on my shoulders every single day.”
Locke was sleeping on a couch in his cousin’s downtown Minneapolis apartment when the officers entered unannounced using a key. Locke was not the target of the warrant but police fatally shot him less than 10 seconds after entering, claiming Locke had his gun pointed in the direction of one of the officers.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced a ban of all no-knock warrants shortly after Locke’s death.
“No-knock warrants like the one that resulted in Amir’s senseless death is the issue that Minnesota and our entire nation need to deal with,” Andre Locke, the father of Amir, told lawmakers during emotional testimony to the committee. “Minnesota has a responsibility to its citizens to ensure police officers are properly trained, and understand how to de-escalate interactions with civilians and value human life.”
Opposition to ban
The use of no-knock warrants by law enforcement steeply declined after Locke’s death, according to a MinnPost analysis, dropping from 12 warrants carried out the month Locke was killed in February to just two across the entire state a month later. But despite dwindling use of the tactic, racial disparities in who was targeted in those raids persisted.
Republicans in the committee expressed a handful of concerns with the proposed legislation, citing opposition to the bill by groups like the Minnesota Police and Peace Officer Association and suggesting whether the bill may be unnecessary due to how infrequently a death occurs during one of those raids.
GOP Rep. Paul Novotny, a 30-year law enforcement officer, argued that despite how relatively rare it was that police used no-knock warrants, it is an important tool to have.
“It’s important to have this tool,” he said. “You say it’s a tool that we don’t need but I carried another tool on my hip for 33 years that I prayed to God I never needed but if I did need it, I would have been glad to have it.”
The proposal passed on an 8-5 vote along party lines and heads for the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law committee. Its companion in the Senate, authored by Sen. Clare Oumou Verbeten of St Paul, was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee but has not yet received a hearing.