MINNEAPOLIS — A new policy prohibiting all no-knock search warrants goes into effect in Minneapolis on Friday after Mayor Jacob Frey's proposed changes following the shooting death of Amir Lock in February.
According to the new policy, the Minneapolis Police Department will no longer be able to request or execute no-knock search warrants, and the mayor's office says the new policy also disallows the department from responding to no-knock search warrants requested by other jurisdictions.
“We accomplished what we set out to do,” said Frey in a press release. “This policy is among the most forward-looking and extensive in the nation and will help keep both our residents and officers safe. I’m grateful for all our internal and external partners who provided data, feedback, and guidance in the creation of this policy. Their efforts will have a lasting impact on public safety in Minneapolis.”
Mayor Frey's office said training for the new policy will begin immediately. According to the release, the changes in policy are as follows:
- Prohibits the application for and execution of all no-knock search warrants by MPD
- Requires that officers must repeatedly knock and announce their presence and purpose prior to entry and implements a minimum wait time of 20 seconds for all warrants and 30 seconds for warrants executed during nighttime hours (8 p.m. until 7 a.m., as defined by state statute)
- Creates a new risk classification and evaluation system for knock-and-announce search warrants
- Introduces new, safer entry tactics to deploy when entering a home or premise
- Enacts a more robust and thorough internal review and accountability process
“Safe search warrants are a critical tool in addressing the violent crime that is harming so many in our community,” said MPD Interim Chief Amelia Huffman in a press release. “It is vitally important that we provide our officers with the best policies, training, and equipment to carry out the work safely. Investigations can be dangerous and unfold rapidly in unexpected ways. This updated policy language strengthens our ability to mitigate the risk of harm to occupants and officers during searches and reflects our commitment to protecting lives. We are committed to reflecting our community’s expectations and best practices that will guide the development of MPD policy and procedures moving forward.”
This isn't the first time Frey has promised a crackdown on no-knock warrants, but the shooting of Locke during an MPD raid earlier this year, exposed loopholes in the last policy that did little to change what was happening.
This time, University of St. Thomas law professor, Rachel Moran, says the policy largely does what it says.
"This is an actual ban on no-knock warrants," said Moran, who provided input on the prolicy change, but did not have a role in the final decision. "There are still people who will critique this policy and I am one of them."
Moran says the change could have gone farther to protect people from danger posed by quick-knock warrants, but says the new policy still might have helped prevent the Locke's death, if it had previously been in place.
"Previously, and as we see in the tragic death of Amir Locke, the police were not waiting at all before entering the home," she said.
Moran says there are still situations when police can enter a home without a warrant due to "exigent circumstances," including:
- To prevent imminent harm or to provide emergency aid
- To prevent imminent destruction or removal of evidence (excluding narcotics)
- When in hot pursuit
- To prevent the imminent escape of a suspect
"That's speaking to situations where police are entering the home without even having time to go get a warrant, like a hostage situation," Moran said. "If it's a situation where there is enough time to go in front of a judge and get a warrant, then they have to knock and they have to wait."
That puts Minneapolis on a pretty short list of cities that have gone to those lengths.
According to a Washington Post Investigation called Broken Doors, just 22 cities restrict no-knock warrants. Only four states have actually banned the process, but they span the political spectrum, including Florida, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia.
"This is an issue, actually, that people from both sides really can come together on and feel a sense that these are not necessarily the safest and most effective way for police to be enforcing the law," said Jenn Abelson, a Washington Post investigative reporter on the Broken Doors team.
Though Minneapolis is now in select company, Abelson says she's repeatedly found that the policies themselves are only part of the solution.
"I think it's really going to be relying on the police chief as well as the judges there as to whether this actually plays out," she said.
Locke, a 22-year-old Minneapolis man, was shot and killed on Feb. 2, 2022, by a Minneapolis Police officer while authorities were executing a search warrant of a downtown Minneapolis apartment.
Court documents say that the apartment was leased to Locke's cousin, 17-year-old Mekhi Speed, who was a suspect in a January St. Paul homicide.
According to search warrant documents that were released earlier this year, Speed was not present at the apartment being searched, or any of the locations listed on the warrants. He was later arrested in Winona in connection to the death of Otis Elder, who was shot and killed on Jan. 10 in St. Paul. Ramsey County prosecutors have filed a petition to have him charged as an adult on second-degree murder charges.
Nothing in the warrants that were released suggests Locke had anything to do with Elder's death or had any knowledge of the shooting.
Body camera video released showed Locke was asleep on the couch in one of the units entered by police and shot just seconds after police entered the apartment. The body cam video show Locke appearing to wake up, holding a gun as he starts to move before an officer shoots and kills him. The entire incident happens in a nine-second span.