House Democrats say they will work to limit no-knock warrants

Protesters call for justice for Amir Locke
Protesters gather in front of the downtown Minneapolis police precinct during a march on Saturday, calling for justice for Amir Locke, a Black 22-year-old man fatally shot by Minneapolis police on Feb. 2.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Democrats in the Minnesota House highlighted a legislative proposal Tuesday that would limit the broad use of no-knock warrants by police throughout the state.

Lawmakers want to take quick action on the issue following the fatal police shooting of Amir Locke in Minneapolis, although they did not have final language of a bill Tuesday, and legislation has not yet been introduced. 

Rep. Athena Hollins, DFL-St. Paul, said she believes no-knock warrants should be used only in rare cases, including kidnapping, hostage situations and human trafficking.

“Why do we remain so tied to this practice that is known to harm citizens as well as peace officers?” Hollins asked. “Law enforcement has many tools, better tools at their disposal to fight crime. No-knock warrants are bound to kill more innocent people, which is why we need to stop using them.”

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Nneka Constantino, a cousin of Amir Locke, spoke in support of the legislative response.

“You shouldn’t be gunned down by the police in your home, or in a place that you think is safe, especially if you’ve broken no law,” Constantino said.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said committee hearings on the proposed ban could begin as soon as next week.

“It’s incumbent upon us to move legislation as quickly as possible to respond to this horrible tragedy,” Hortman said.

Republican Sen. Warren Limmer, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee, said he has reservations about an outright ban on no-knock warrants. He wants to preserve flexibility for law enforcement. 

"Right now, no-knock warrants are rarely used, and when they are rarely used there's few problems with them,” Limmer said. “There are exceptions, as we know, however it probably will just take some refinement, policywise."

Gov. Tim Walz said late last week he would sign a bill banning the use of no-knock warrants if it reaches his desk this year, but it remains unclear whether House Democrats and Senate Republicans could reach an agreement on that.

Limmer said he expects lawmakers to debate the issue this year, but he says the public needs to know there are dangerous people who pose a threat, and that police need to use a variety of tools. 

“If you don’t have the element of surprise, you’re going to have problems,” Limmer said. 

Last year lawmakers stopped short of banning no-knock warrants.

Instead, they placed restrictions on them including requiring explicit justification why a conventional warrant won’t work and sign-offs from an agency’s chief law enforcement officer or designee and a second senior officer. Agencies will also have to submit data to the state department of public safety on their use of no-knock warrants, which will release a report to lawmakers once per year.