Frey, experts promise warrant changes in 'weeks, not months'

Protesters call for justice for Amir Locke
More than 1,000 people march through downtown Minneapolis on Feb. 5 in response to the police killing of Amir Locke three days earlier. Mayor Jacob Frey said in the briefing with reporters Wednesday that he wants to create a new warrants policy within a matter of “weeks, not months.”
Nicole Neri for MPR News file

Minneapolis civil rights officials say they will examine the Police Department’s no-knock warrant policy.

Mayor Jacob Frey put the policy on hold while outside experts could examine it. But as criticism mounts, Frey and the city’s interim director of the Civil Rights Department, Alberder Gillespie, announced that a division of her department will conduct an “internal special review” of the Minneapolis Police Department’s no-knock policy under Frey.

“We are responsible for showing police services are delivered in a lawful and nondiscriminatory manner, and providing to the public meaningful oversight of police and interactions with our citizens,” Gillespie said.

Civil rights department staff have “unrestricted access” to MPD records. Frey said in the briefing with reporters Wednesday that he wants to create a new warrants policy within a matter of “weeks, not months.”

The city will enlist the help of DeRay Mckesson and Katie Ryan of Campaign Zero to recommend best practices on how to serve warrants.

“Most communities that are starting to recognize the nuances of search warrants are calling for urgent change,” Ryan said. “Because today, Amir Locke should be alive.”

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An officer shot and killed the 22-year-old early in the morning of Feb. 2 as he stirred under a blanket. A brief police body camera video clip released by the MPD shows Locke with a gun in his hand.

Campaign Zero is expected to suggest more substantive restrictions around search warrants.

“Knock and announce search warrants can also essentially function as a no-knock warrant in practice,” Ryan said.

Other recommendations could include law enforcement providing information about occupants to a judge signing off on a search warrant to account for any vulnerable adults or children.

Campaign Zero urges a change to Minnesota state law that allows search warrants to remain active for 10 days. Ryan said that window should be smaller if a search warrant is truly urgent. The group also recommends requiring officers to be completely visibly attired in law enforcement gear to be readily identifiable, and limiting nighttime raids to when someone’s life is in imminent danger.

Ryan said the group also recommends a 30-second wait time after announcing and before entering. Ryan said the last recommendation is particularly significant in Locke’s killing, which happened around nine seconds after officers entered the apartment where was staying.

Recommendations also may include consequences for officers who breach the terms.

Frey said the city will also work to formalize a review and approval process when it comes to releasing information in the immediate aftermath of critical incidents. This comes after MPD gave untrue information to the public in the initial aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in May 2020 and again in the Locke case last week.