Push to reduce no-knock warrants clears Minnesota House committee

Minnesota lawmakers are beginning to debate new rules to guide the use of no-knock warrants, a practice that has come under intense scrutiny since Minneapolis police shot and killed Amir Locke during a a raid this month.

A bill that would be significantly limiting the use of such warrants authorized its first House committee Thursday in a virtual meeting that coincided with Locke’s funeral.

“We need to make sure we don’t lose any more lives because of the prohibition warrants,” said Rep. Athena Hollins, DFL-St. Paul, the main sponsor of the bill.

The measure would only authorize no-knock warrants when there is “an imminent risk of death or grievous bodily harm to a person confined without consent to the place designated in the warrant,” such as in a seizure. ‘hostage.

It would also expand officer training and create a standardized application form for law enforcement across the state to obtain no-knock warrants.

Hollins introduced the bill days after Locke died on Feb. 2

Critics question the limitation of a tool that they say is rarely used but still needed.

“Don’t remove tools that are being used properly,” said Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, a former police officer. “This bill is not suitable for prime time.”

The House DFLs want to pass the measure on its own, not as part of a larger public safety package. Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, chair of the Finance and Policy Committee for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform, called it “a critical issue for us.”

After more than an hour of discussion, the committee voted largely along party lines to send the bill to the House Judiciary Committee. Although in its early stages, the proposal has already drawn a sharp line between Democrats and Republicans, as well as law enforcement officials and other stakeholders.

Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy testified in support of banning no-knock warrants, saying it would “show the community that we hear their concerns and are committed to preserving life.” human”.

McCarthy, who chairs the Peace Officers Standards and Training Council (POST), said a full ban would also benefit officers. “Although they are not the ones who decide to serve a warrant of prohibition,” she said, “they are the ones who pay the price when that warrant goes wrong.”

But St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson, who noted he was a man of color who grew up in a violent Detroit neighborhood, said he was a “staunch opponent of this bill. “.

“There may be members or supporters of this bill who have no idea what we’re dealing with on the street,” said Anderson, a former SWAT member. “We don’t deal with people who just come to the door and answer because we knock and ask them politely.”

Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said her organization supports the exception for cases involving someone held against their will because she doesn’t believe a blanket ban can be passed by the Legislative Assembly.

“I don’t think an outright ban has a chance of surviving, but what we want is to have extremely high guardrails,” she said.

Nearly a dozen advocates for police accountability and racial justice gathered in the State Capitol’s press briefing room after Thursday’s hearing to underscore the urgency of the moment.

Holding “Justice for Amir Locke” signs, they warned of the consequences of not adopting or watering down Hollins’ proposal. Having earlier seen most of their police reform priorities languish in the Legislative Assembly after consecutive years of deadly encounters with police, they have insisted on the need for increased community activism.

“We were forced to believe that lawmakers…at this point literally don’t care because if you did, you would listen to the community,” said Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence.

“We have to live in these communities, we have to live without our loved ones. Why don’t lawmakers listen to the people who live without the people they love?”

“You say you want us to heal,” she said. “How do we heal? »

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