Skip to content
Is Minneapolis’ ban on no-knock warrants enough to prevent another Amir Locke?


A new ban on no-knock warrants in Minneapolis, enacted in the wake of the death of Amir Locke, is considered one of the strictest of its kind in the country.

The policy, which took effect April 8, no longer allows the Minneapolis Police Department to seek or execute warrants without knocking and making their presence known first. It requires officers to knock repeatedly, announce themselves, and wait at least 20 seconds during the day or 30 seconds at night before entering.

Locke, a 22-year-old black man who was an aspiring musician, was killed when SWAT officers issued a “no knock” warrant in the early morning hours of Feb. 2 at a Minneapolis apartment. The officers found him on a couch covered with a blanket with a gun in his hand. An officer shot him three times.

Fury followed when it emerged that Locke was not the subject named in the warrant.

Hennepin County District Attorney Michael Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced April 6 that no charges would be filed in Locke’s death, but admitted that Locke might still be alive if he died. there hadn’t been the raid.

“Amir Locke is a victim. This tragedy may not have happened without the no-knock warrant used in this case,” they said in a joint statement.

The rallying cry at protests – “finish ‘no punches’ now!” – is now cemented as policy.

Is Minneapolis’ ban on no-knock warrants enough to prevent another Amir Locke?
People gather outside the Hennepin County Government Center to denounce the lack of charges brought after the April 6 death of Amir Locke in Minneapolis.File by Stephen Maturity/Getty Images

However, with the new regulations, the police can waive announcements in “emergency circumstances”: to prevent damage, provide emergency assistance, prevent the destruction of evidence (excluding narcotics) and prevent the escape of a suspect. Similar emergency circumstances are standard in other city and state policies.

Accountability is also built into the policy. It will create an online dashboard to track forced entries by the department, and there will be an independent review of high-risk and overnight warrants immediately afterwards.

Minneapolis joins 21 cities and 29 states that have legislation or policies restricting “no hitting,” according to Campaign Zero, a police reform group that helped Minneapolis create the new policy.

Five states — Connecticut, Florida, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia — have banned them altogether.

Katie Ryan, Campaign Zero’s chief of staff, called the Minneapolis decision a “huge victory.”

“I think this is one of the most forward-thinking and restrictive search warrant policies in the country,” she said.

If that policy were in place in Locke’s case, he would still be alive, “because they were at his house at night,” she added.

“Either they would have been there during the day, they would have waited 20-30 seconds, they might not have been there in the first place because they would have had to make sure the person they were looking for was home , and they weren’t,” she said.

Ryan said the policy has a “very strict definition” of emergency circumstances to prevent warrants from escalating without urgent need and includes a more robust warrant application process to determine risk.

DeRay Mckesson, co-founder of Campaign Zero, points out how crucial wait times are for warrant executions, especially since Locke was killed seconds after the raid.

“Louisville is 15 seconds away, Maine and Maryland 20 seconds away, Minneapolis is 20 seconds away by day, 30 seconds away by night – there is no other place in the country, city or state that is 30 seconds away from everything. What they did literally wasn’t done,” Mckesson said.

He said the policy is crucial as it regulates how all search warrants are executed to prevent hit and announce warrants from turning into “quick hits”.

He pointed to the case of Breonna Taylor, the black EMT who was killed in a raid in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2020. Police had obtained a no-knock warrant but claimed they executed him as a knock and announce because they knocked and shouted before entering his apartment.

“The reason the change in Minneapolis is actually so important, the real way to do it anywhere is to restrict the execution of all search warrants so that none can turn into raids,” said McKesson said.

Is Minneapolis’ ban on no-knock warrants enough to prevent another Amir Locke?
Minneapolis police enter an apartment on February 2, 2022, moments before shooting 22-year-old Amir Locke.Minneapolis Police Department via AP

But not everyone is on board.

sergeant. Betsy Brantner Smith, spokeswoman for the National Police Association, warned that the ban could restrict law enforcement’s ability to “proactively stop crime and conduct appropriate investigations”.

“Waiting 20 to 30 seconds is a long time for someone not only to run out the back door, but to get a gun to start shooting through the door,” she said. “Remember, police killings are on the rise.”

In 2021, 61 officers died from felony assaults with a firearm, a 36% jump from 2020, the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum reported.

She explained that “missing shots” is “extremely rare” and usually requires multiple levels of clearance, including by a judge. However, Minneapolis used raids quite frequently. In 2020, Mayor Jacob Frey said the city’s police department averages 139 “no-knock” warrants per year.

In the Locke case, Brantner Smith noted that the subject of the warrant was Locke’s cousin, Mekhi Camden Speed, who was 17 at the time and wanted in a homicide investigation into the murder of Otis Elder in january. At the time, Speed ​​was on probation for another shooting and he violated his probation terms.

Brantner Smith said a “no hit” was used because “Mr. Speed ​​was a convicted violent felon” who “should have been in jail” and the warrant was for the safety of the officers.

“The biggest lesson learned in this situation is not ‘let’s not do no-knock warrants,'” she said. “The problem is a lax criminal justice system.”

‘No beating’ are mortal on both sides of the door

“No knock” mandates originated under President Richard Nixon in the 1970s as part of the war on drugs, said Rachel Moran, an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law who focuses on the responsibility of the police.

“You can think of the police breaking into the house of alleged drug dealers and grabbing the drugs before the dealer has time to flush them down the toilet,” she said.

Their use was popularized with the militarization of police, Moran said. However, the “no knock” mandates came into the spotlight after Taylor’s death.

“They have always been dangerous. No-knock warrants are too dangerous to warrant their use,” Moran said.

There is a lack of comprehensive data and oversight documenting these warrants and their impacts, but a New York Times study found that from 2010 to 2016, 94 people died during such operations. Eighty-one were civilians and 13 were law enforcement officers.

“No kicks” is also used in a racially disparate way, Moran said.

Minnesota state officials have mandated law enforcement agencies to report how often they use “no hits” in the past year. Data from Sept. 1, 2021 through Feb. 2 shows that of the 94 warrant subjects whose race was reported, 70% were black, the Minnesota Post reported.

Alternatives to “no strokes”

Minneapolis is often compared to its twin city, St. Paul, which has not executed a no-knock warrant since 2016, St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders told NBC News.

“The decision was made in the interest of the safety of everyone involved,” Linders said.

“Rather than forcing the issue, we will use time, distance and coverage to achieve the desired result. For example, our SWAT team will establish a perimeter and call people inside the house, apartment, building, etc. If we reach a point where it is necessary to go after a suspect, we will send a robot or a dog first, if possible,” he said, adding: “So far this seems to be working well for us.

In Louisville, Breonna’s Law was passed in June 2020, banning no-knock warrants and requiring any Louisville Metro Police Department or metro law enforcement to knock and wait at least 15 seconds for an answer. The state restricted their use in April.

In 2020, St. Louis passed a “no knocking” ordinance for drug cases, and the San Antonio police chief said he banned the practice for officers.

In September, the Department of Justice imposed new limits on “no-knock” warrants in situations where an officer has reason to believe that knocking and announcing “would create an imminent threat of physical harm to the officer and /or another person.

Still a long way to go

Yet the Minneapolis policy could go further.

“One way is a longer waiting period and the other, perhaps more importantly, I would have recommended that they ban late night entries,” Moran said. “Does it avoid a tragedy like the one that happened to Amir Locke? This makes it less likely. … I don’t know if it would have saved his life. I hope so, but I’m not sure.

Johnathon McClellan, president of the Minnesota Justice Coalition, said the new policy was “too little, too late,” especially after Frey had proposed earlier policies that purported to ban “no beating” but failed to do so. not done.

“We hope he will warn the next Amir Locke. I think the community is skeptical,” he said.

He is pushing for the state Legislature to pass a no-knock warrants bill, proposed in February in the wake of Locke’s death and awaiting a final vote in the House.

“Amir Locke was not the subject of a warrant,” McClellan said. “Amir was a child who was still trying to understand his trajectory in life. Amir Locke could have been any of us.

nbcnews Gt

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.