Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Monday proposed a policy change that would permanently ban the Police Department's use of no-knock warrants.
Instead, officers must knock, announce and wait.
Though not yet written, the policy would prohibit Minneapolis police from both applying for and executing no-knock warrants. The announcement comes nearly six weeks after a Minneapolis police officer fatally shot Amir Locke, 22, during such a search at a downtown apartment. Locke was not named on the warrant.
"Today will mark a turning point on our warrant entry policies here in Minneapolis," Frey said Monday. "Following the killing of Amir Locke, we wanted to make sure … that we have a policy that is first and foremost about the preservation of life of those that may be in a unit or a home when a search warrant is conducted, and the lives of officers that are stepping into these, at times, high-risk situations."
It was Locke's death that pushed the city's no-knock warrant policy back under scrutiny. Police accountability activists noted that Frey had campaigned before his November re-election saying he had banned no-knock warrants.
But on Feb. 2, Minneapolis police officers performed a no-knock warrant search shortly before 7 a.m. at the Bolero Flats Apartment Homes.
Body-camera footage showed officers quietly unlocking an apartment with a key before rushing inside yelling, "Search warrant!" Locke lay under a blanket on the couch. When an officer kicked the couch, Locke stirred and was shot by officer Mark Hanneman within seconds as Locke held a firearm in his right hand. His parents say he was a licensed gun owner.
A moratorium on no-knock warrants was announced a few days later.
Policy, then training
No representative from the Police Department was present for Frey's announcement, but the mayor said Interim Chief Amelia Huffman supports the proposal.
The Police Department would begin writing an official policy, which should be completed in about three weeks, Frey said. Then the department will begin training officers in the changes.
In the meantime, the city's moratorium on no-knock warrants remains.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis did not immediately respond to inquiries from the Star Tribune for comment.
Announce and wait
In addition to banning no-knock warrants, the proposal would require officers to knock, announce their presence and wait a minimum of 20 seconds before entering. From 8 p.m. to 7 a.m., that wait time would be 30 seconds minimum.
There would still be "exigent circumstances" when officers could enter sooner than the proposed wait time, such as to prevent imminent harm.
The proposal would classify warrants by whether they were low, medium or high risk, each requiring a higher level of approval within the Police Department. Only the city's SWAT team would execute high-risk warrants. And, lastly, the proposal would require officers to be trained in new "safer entry tactics" such as "verbally contacting any occupants [of the location] to elicit cooperation."
Representatives from Campaign Zero, a nonprofit that researches policy to end police violence, said that if implemented Frey's proposal would make Minneapolis' the best warrant policy in the United States. Campaign Zero consulted with Frey on the proposal.
"What is powerful about this proposed policy is that … every search warrant will require a waiting time. … There is no other city where every search warrant requires a waiting time," said DeRay McKesson, the nonprofit's executive director. If the proposal is implemented, McKesson said, "Minneapolis will have done all that it could do at the city level."
The proposal was also informed by an internal review of the Police Department's no-knock warrant use, which was conducted by the Office of Police Conduct Review and led by Interim Civil Rights Director Alberder Gillespie. The office will release a report detailing its findings to the public on Monday, Gillespie said.
What others are saying
Frey said the proposal was presented to several members of the community, including the City Council and the public safety workgroup he convened to make recommendations for police reforms.
"This proposed warrant and entry policy is an important step in the right direction to create an opportunity for our Police Department to make sure they keep our residents safe and rebuild community trust," Council President Andrea Jenkins said in a prepared statement.
Her stance was echoed by the council's Public Health and Safety Committee Chair LaTrisha Vetaw, who said "this is a strong policy proposal." She said she looks forward to working with the mayor and others on the council to "ensure that this policy is put into practice as written."
As part of the changes to the city's approach on warrants, Frey said the city will launch an online, publicly accessible dashboard to track the Police Department's warrant executions.