Racial Justice

Banning No-Knock Warrants: A Growing Movement on Change.org

In March, police officers in Louisville, Kentucky fatally shot Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, as she slept in her bed. The officers were acting on a no-knock warrant. When police forcefully entered the apartment, Breonna’s boyfriend shot at what he thought were intruders. Officers fired back, ending in tragedy. 

The murder of Breonna Taylor has sparked a nationwide movement to end the broken system of policing that enabled officers to enter her home and take her life. Black Lives Matter protests continue to surge across the country and questions have been raised about how the police actually work for public safety, and at what cost. 

Those cries for justice have led to concrete action by citizens across the country. In the month of October alone, more than 60 petitions were started on Change.org calling for local city and state lawmakers to ban no-knock warrants. And there are plenty of reasons to listen.  

No-knock warrants give police permission to force entry without announcing themselves. This is not the norm. Usually, the fourth amendment guarantees the right to “be secure in their persons, house, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” A “knock-and-announce principle” is protected in the Fourth Amendment, and demands law enforcement officers to announce their presence and give people the chance to open their door. But these warrants override our constitutional rights.

The 1980’s saw a rise in the use of no-knock raids with the “war on drugs.” Law enforcement argued they made it less likely that suspects would have a weapon, and they prevented the possibility of hiding evidence. As policing continues to get more militarized, tactics such as no-knock raids have proven to be incredibly dangerous, regularly ending in violence. Both no-knock warrants, and the larger trend of militarized policing has disproportionately targeted racial minorities, specifically the Black community. No knock warrants are more often executed in Black communities, lower income and minority communities. 

In the spring of 2010, a Detroit no-knock raid ended the life of 7 year old Aiyana Stanley Jones. Around midnight, a half-dozen masked officers stormed Aiyana’s family’s home, as an A&E crew filmed it for a true-crime program. Aiyana was shot in the head, after being hit with a flashbang grenade. As it turned out, the officer threw the grenade into the wrong apartment. Why did they need to go at midnight? Why couldn’t they knock? Why did they need a grenade? These are some of the questions the Jones family still have. Detroit resident Dustin Alexander started a petition to get no-knock warrants banned in the city and ensure a tragedy like this can never happen again. 

In Killeen, Texas, the Reed family has some of the same questions. In February 2019, police entered James Scott Reed’s home with a no-knock warrant in the early hours of the morning. Reed was shot dead and the officer responsible has not been held accountable. The Reed family has collected over 20,000 signatures on their petition to end no-knock warrants in Killeen. But the family is not stopping there – they want to see a ban on this dangerous practice in every state. 

Aiyana, James and Breonna are not the only victims of no-knock warrants. An investigative report by the New York Times found that at least 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers died in during no-knock raids from 2010 through 2016. Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies estimates that 60,000 no-knock warrants are executed each year across the country. A conservative number he says.

But thanks to a significant push from communities across the country, things are changing. 

It was in Louisville, where Breonna Taylor was murdered, the city council unanimously voted to ban no-knock warrants. Cities like Memphis, Indianapolis, Aurora, Columbus and Santa Fe have followed suit. On October 28th, Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation banning no-knock warrants state-wide, becoming the third to do so. Over 10 different states have legislation on the table, aimed to reform the use of no-knock warrants. There is momentum for change. 

Do you want to learn more or get involved in the movement to ban no-knock warrants? Check out this page, which is home to petitions from states and cities across the country, contact information for key decision makers and more information about the movement. If you’re ready to take action to protect citizens of your city or state from no-knock warrants, start a petition today

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November 2, 2020 7:32 pm