Mpls no-knock warrant ban announced, ACLU 'worried about loopholes'

A month after the Minneapolis Police Department killed Amir Locke – the result of a "no-knock" search warrant intended for another suspect – Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has announced a prohibition on the specific type of warrant being used again.

On Monday Frey announced a prohibition on no-knock warrants in the city of Minneapolis, while also saying MPD will have a new minimum wait time while conducting "knock and announce" warrants. He also announced new training techniques and a classification system that will be used in serving them.

"Following the killing of Amir Locke we wanted to make sure we got this policy right," said Frey during the announcement. "This makes headway toward rebuilding trust between the [Minneapolis police] department and the constituents trusted we’re trusted with serving."

According to Frey, several stakeholder groups were consulted during the crafting of the new "data driven" policies that have a focus on the "preservation of life" – both for officers and suspects. 

The prohibition will apply to both the application for and execution of no-knock search warrants in Minneapolis. It will apply both to agencies who apply for warrants within MPD jurisdiction, and when MPD applies for warrants outside of it.

However, Frey said there would still be exceptions allowed under state law, known as exigent situations, which include hostage scenarios. Situations such as flushing illegal drugs will not qualify an exigent circumstance.

MPD policy changes 

In addition to the ban on no-knock warrants, four main areas of policy changes include a new requisite waiting time for officers to enter a residence while serving knock and announce warrants, a new classification system of warrant applications, new techniques officers will use when serving any warrant and a new civilian review dashboard.

When serving a warrant an MPD will now be required to wait at least 20 seconds after announcing their presence before entering – and 30 seconds from 8 p.m. to 7 a. m. – if they receive a warrant to enter at all.

A new system of classifying types of entry warrants will still be conducted as low, medium or high risk applications. A low risk warrant will be when entry might not even be necessary, and expectation of violence is low. A medium risk will take place when a forced entry is possible, but unlikely an officer will encounter significant firearms or danger (and will require approval by a commander or above). A high risk will require approval of a police chief, and be exclusively conducted by officers with a higher degree of training.

When police entry is found to be warranted, officers will now be retrained on the methodology in which they do so.

After 20 seconds officers will be required to "enter then hold" rather than an "active entry." Armor for officers such as a ballistics shield – clearly marked "police" – can be used, but the extra responsibilities will require extra personnel to conduct them, Frey said.

Once a warrant has been served, civilians will now be provided more oversight in regards to the manner in which they were conduct – including the day, time and personnel involved – thanks to a new dashboard for police conduct (which will be subject to data privacy laws).

"These are critical steps to rebuilding trust, toward rebuilding our system and true systemic change," said Frey, who noted interim police chief Amelia Huffman was supportive of the changes.

Frey also noted that officer safety was heavily considered throughout the process, saying, "We have a lot of respect for police officers that put themselves into these situations. We want to make sure they get home to their families."

In the past the practice of no-knock warrants is often used by law enforcement agencies to surprise suspects that might otherwise be confrontational or mitigate the risk of potential evidence destruction. 

Policy language will be finalized in the coming weeks and training will begin shortly thereafter, according to Frey.

ACLU responds 

In a statement Tuesday, the ACLU-MN responded to the announcement by saying it applauded the action, but worried about loopholes. 

"The city of Minneapolis’ new policy around no-knock warrants is a step in the right direction. Requiring police to announce their presence, knock, and be visibly identifiable as police are important steps, as is a dashboard to allow more transparency and accountability… The new policy still allows police to enter immediately if there are ‘exigent circumstances,’ – a category that leaves too much discretion to police," the statement read in part. 

According to the ACLU, one of the exceptions would be preventing the possible imminent destruction of evidence, and allowing exceptions like these equates to a no-knock warrant policy "under a fancy new name."

However, Frey previously said during the policy announcement that the destruction of evidence would not be a criteria admitted in the search warrant process.

The ACLU-MN currently wants more details about how MPD will establish containment of an area, direct occupants to a secured location and what specialized equipment and technology will be in place to do so, according to the statement.