The use of no-knock warrants by police has been brought to the forefront after a Louisville woman was killed by police in a raid.
The death of Breonna Taylor on March 13 has sparked days of demonstrations and protests in Louisville and elsewhere. The government committee in Louisville has recommended new restrictions on using the warrants, which allow officers to force entry into a residence without announcing themselves first.
In Franklin County, no-knock warrants remain a seldom-used tactic in certain circumstances, police say.
Frankfort Police Assistant Chief Lynn Aubrey told The State Journal five no-knock warrants were approved for the department in the last two years. Four of those were actually executed as no-knock warrants, she said.
“We do occasionally, but very rarely, but occasionally we use no-knock warrants,” Aubrey said. “We still knock and announce before we enter.”
Franklin County Sheriff Chris Quire said he did not remember ever executing one during his 20 years in law enforcement, and his office does not use no-knock warrants.
“We often shine lights and use cruisers to announce we are there in addition to having a search warrant,” Quire said in an email. “If an extremely unique situation comes up, we could, after vetting by me then by asking a judge to consider issuing a no-knock warrant, but those situations are not common and would be evaluated closely.”
The sheriff’s office policy requires deputies to knock and announce themselves, unless the occupant already knows the purpose, when personal safety would be jeopardized, if the delay could cause a defendant to escape, when a prisoner has escaped and returned home, or if the announcement would cause evidence to be destroyed.
If any of those circumstances exists, deputies could seek a no-knock warrant from the judge and outline those factors in the affidavit.
Aubrey said officers have to specifically request a no-knock warrant from the judge.
“The judges have very strict criteria they look at before they issue one,” she said.
Earlier this week, Lexington Police issued a news release saying its officers have not executed a no-knock warrant in the past year. The department’s policy calls for the warrant to be reviewed by three levels of supervisors as well as the chief or an assistant chief.
Once the warrant is issued, the department’s emergency response unit is responsible for executing it. They could decide to take a different approach to enter, but they must announce themselves once they are inside the residence.
Taylor was killed after police executed a no-knock warrant in the early morning hours of March 13 as part of a narcotics investigation. Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker told police he thought he was shooting at intruders, not the police. Officers returned fire, and Taylor was shot and killed.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer temporarily suspended no-knock warrants in the wake of Taylor’s death, according to news reports.
The Louisville Metro Council is expected to vote on the matter Thursday.