The Biden administration is considering expanding a policy that restricts federal agents’ use of “no-knock” warrants.
A “no-knock warrant,” as the name suggests, is a court order that allows law enforcement officers with a search warrant to enter a home without first announcing their presence. It’s an exception to standard procedure; in most cases, officers must knock and announce themselves before entering a private home to execute a warrant.
President Joe Biden, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, is considering whether to further limit federal agents’ use of the tactic after a local SWAT team in Minneapolis fatally shot Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man.
The Justice Department announced in September that it was curtailing the use of “no-knock” warrants by its federal agents. Psaki said Biden is now weighing an expansion to other federal agencies. Agents and officers in Homeland Security, for example, also use the tactic.
The revised Justice Department policy is more stringent than the law allows, requiring approval from both federal prosecutors and a supervisory law enforcement agent to obtain a no-knock warrant.
Under the new policy, Justice Department agents, including those in the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, are only allowed to use a no-knock warrant if they have “reasonable grounds to believe that knocking and announcing the agent’s presence would create an imminent threat of physical violence to the agent and/or another person.”
There are a few exceptions to this rule, but agents seeking a warrant in those circumstances must first obtain approval from the agency’s director and the U.S. attorney or an assistant attorney general before approaching a judge.
No-knock warrants are mostly used in local law enforcement, where federal executive orders would be ineffective. Residents are put in danger because they have no idea who is coming through the door.
Breonna Taylor was killed by police during a “no-knock” raid on her Louisville home, and the warrants have been used disproportionately against Black and brown people.
They can also pose a threat to law enforcement officers.
In the most recent instance, police bodycam video shows an officer kicking the couch where Locke’s family claims he was sleeping. Locke is seen wrapped in a blanket, starting to move, and holding a pistol just before an officer fires his weapon in the video.
The 14 seconds of video released by the city do not show how Minneapolis SWAT officers approached the apartment or how they reacted after the shooting.
Locke was not named in any warrants, according to police, and his family claims he obtained his firearm legally. Locke’s parents describe him as a rising music industry star who wanted to help young people.
Andre Locke and Karen Wells, Locke’s parents, claim their son was “executed” after waking up from a deep sleep and reaching for a legal firearm to protect himself. The family and activists have demanded that the interim police chief be fired.
Psaki stated that the administration was saddened by “the tragic death of Amir Locke.” “and stated that the White House had discussed the need for policy reform with civil rights organizations as well as law enforcement agencies.
“There is widespread agreement that in order to keep both citizens and law enforcement officers safe,” she stated.