POST board chair: No-knock warrants ‘just need to be banned’

Protesters call for justice for Amir Locke
Protesters gather in downtown Minneapolis during a march on Saturday calling for justice for Amir Locke, who was killed by police during a no-knock search warrant where he was not the suspect.
Tim Evans for MPR News

No-knock search warrants are under renewed scrutiny following the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old Amir Locke last week during a no-knock raid in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has since announced a moratorium on the controversial tactic, limiting the use of no-knock warrants in most situations but falling short of an outright ban. The Legislature is also looking at curtailing the use of no-knock warrants.

Kelly McCarthy is chief of the Mendota Heights Police Department and chair of the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). She weighed in on no-knock policies.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. Listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.

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Where do you fall on the controversy over no-knock warrants?

I think we are at a point now where they just need to be banned, and preferably that ban would be statewide.

Individual agencies can make those policy decisions, but I think citizens of Minnesota everywhere have a right to be safe in their home. And I think that a statewide ban really communicates to all of our citizens that we recognize that right and we will preserve that right.

There are some officers who say these no-knocks are still an important and useful tool. Do you disagree with that?

I don't disagree that they're useful, but I would say that there's always another way.

Police officers are some of the most resourceful and creative people that I know. We can use other tools, and many professional SWAT teams have been using a breach and hold method for years.

There [are] states and cities that have outlawed the use of no-knock warrants, and they seem to be able to enforce the law just fine. So I'm confident that the professional peace officers in Minnesota will adapt to the change.

You mentioned breach and hold. What is that?

Instead of what you saw on the [body camera] video or what people think traditional search warrants are — where you're entering a house or a building and moving through the building to find suspects — instead you enter, hold your position and then you call suspects out, either through just yelling for suspects to come out [or] you can also use canines. Robots have been used in that case.

It gives people an opportunity to comply with officers' orders, and that's really what we saw here, is there was no opportunity to comply. And I think citizens need that.

There is some research from Pew that says 40 percent of households say they have a gun. How do police then keep themselves safe when they enter a home?

Normally, you're very obviously a police officer. And unfortunately, our society is awash with guns, and it's something we deal with every day. So that's the difference in different kinds of search warrants and that dynamic entry, which you saw, or a breach and hold.

Anytime we're dealing with human beings, we recognize they may have access to weapons, and it's something we deal with daily.

Does the POST board have any say over the training to conduct these no-knock operations and SWAT team operations?

Currently no. The POST board can only set rules and regulations for our license holders through legislation or the rulemaking process, and the rulemaking process is arduous and takes years.

Any change that we would decide to make today would take years to implement, and so that's why, in my opinion, legislation is the surest way to do this. But each city could also make a policy to ban the use of no-knock warrants.

Does your department have no-knocks?

We haven't conducted one since I've been there, as a matter of practice, and so we don't use them. But that's not codified in policy yet. We're doing a policy review now, and it most likely will be.

Because you are in favor of a ban, will you testify in favor of legislation when it comes up in committee?

If asked, I certainly could.