Minneapolis City Council debates ‘no-knock’ search warrant policy

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Monday, the Minneapolis City Council debated the future of “no-knock” search warrants in Minneapolis.

The council took a look at the policy less than a week after officer Mark Hanneman shot and killed Amir Locke.

For the conversation Monday, Minneapolis City Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison, who is chair of the Policy & Government Oversight Committee, asked nationally recognized experts to present their research on police procedures and “no-knock” warrants.

Presentations were led by Rachel Moran, an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law; Sarah Murtada, a University of St. Thomas law student; and civil rights attorneys Ben Crump, Jeff Storms and Antonio Romanucci. 

“No-knock warrants create chaotic, confusing circumstances that put everyone present at risk,” Crump told committee members.

Moran and Murtada also cited recent research showing the dangers of no-knock warrants, noting the practice has been controversial since it was introduced in the 1970s.

“Because it allows police to surprise people inside a residence, they do carry a heightened degree of danger,” Moran said.

Moran also said the initial policy change implemented by Mayor Jacob Frey in 2020 to limit the use of no-knock warrants in the city did not make a significant change.

WATCH: Full video of Minneapolis City Council meeting on “no-knock” warrants

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“If you look at the numbers of how often Minneapolis police have been using no-knock warrants before and after that November 2020 purported ban, in November 2020, the city reported they’d been averaging about 139 no-knock warrants per year. In first 10 months after what was referred to as a ban, the city reported 10 months later, it had requested 90 no-knock warrants,” Moran said. “So the numbers we’re looking at do not tell a story of a significant reduction in the use of Minneapolis police’s no-knock warrants.”

Moran said even with the additional moratorium issued by the mayor Friday, there is still no “ban” on no-knock warrants in the city since the change still allows for their use in certain dangerous situations.

The moratorium states that to execute a no-knock warrant, there must be “an imminent threat of harm to an individual or the public and then the warrant must be approved by the Chief.”

Mayor Frey told city council members further changes to the MPD policy are under consideration.

Under the city charter, the mayor does have “complete power” over the command of the Minneapolis Police Department, so he alone could decide on more drastic or permanent changes.

However, during the meeting, the mayor said he thinks it’s better to have “more people at the table” on these types of complex issues.

“We could always go further, and I think in this instance with this policy we need to. And so that’s what we’re looking at digging into right now,” Frey said.

The mayor did not give any timeline for a decision on possible policy changes.

On a state level, House DFL lawmakers plan to announce a new proposal Tuesday to ban no-knock warrants across Minnesota.

Background and body camera video release

Locke’s family said last week that Locke was asleep on the couch when the Minneapolis Police Department executed a search warrant at his cousin’s apartment.

Police revealed last week that Locke was not named in that search warrant.

In a clip of body camera video released last week, officers can be seen at the door of the apartment.

RELATED: Body camera video of fatal MPD shooting released; city leaders, activists respond

Upon turning the handle, officers walk through the doorway and then yell to announce their presence. At least four officers enter the apartment.

“Police search warrant!” officers yell at least four times. Their continued yelling including shouts of “hands, hands!” and two calls for the man to “get on the ground” and “get on the f****** ground.”

A man is lying on a couch under a blanket unmoving and only rises when officers kick the couch.

He starts to rise from the waist, holding a handgun, with the barrel pointed toward the ground, finger out — not on the trigger.

An officer fires three shots from mere feet away while the man is still huddled under a blanket on the couch, and the man then falls to the ground. The video abruptly ends. Approximately nine seconds elapse from officers turning the key to shots being fired.

Locke’s family and family attorneys have stated the handgun in Locke’s possession was legal and that Locke often carried it to protect himself.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has implemented a temporary ban on “no-knock” warrants in the wake of Locke’s death.

RELATED: Minneapolis Mayor Frey announces moratorium on no-knock warrants