No-knock raids rare for local law enforcement

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A protester holds a sign during a protest over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. Breonna Taylor, a black woman, was fatally shot by police in her home in March. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Breonna Taylor was at home with her boyfriend on March 13 when the Louisville Police Department conducted a no-knock warrant on their home. Taylor, who was killed after being shot eight times by police, has become a rallying cry for protesters wanting reform.

Locally, law enforcement said they conduct these types of raids rarely and only under special circumstances. In a statement to WDTN.com, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said, “(It) very rarely does no-knock search warrants. The only circumstance where one may be done is if someone’s life is in imminent danger.”

Community Relations Officer John Davis of the Centerville Police Department wrote in a statement that he can’t remember the last time Centerville PD had conducted a no-knock raid.

Chief Deputy Jeffrey Meyer of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said they couldn’t remember being on a no-knock raid in his nearly three decades with the agency.

“I’ve been doing this job for 29 years and in that 29 years, I have never participated in a no-knock raid,” Meyer said. “I just talked with one of the Majors who is in charge of investigations (with Clark County), he has probably 23 years in here, and he says he has done maybe one in that period of time.”

Meyer said law enforcement has worked actively to de-escalate entries into homes during arrests. The biggest issue has been safety.

“It used to be called dynamic entry when we would go into a drug house,” Meyer said. “We would do an announcement and wait for a brief period of time before we came through the door.

“Now, when we get a warrant we usually have probable cause for an arrest, which means we don’t have to worry about people flushing evidence. We don’t have to get into the doorway right away. We ask them to come to the door. If after a period of time they don’t open, we’ll break the door down, but we will stand in the doorway and call out to them until they announce.”

Meyer said this is the procedure most departments in the country have been leaning toward in recent years. He said he’s been on numerous warrants with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and they conduct most of their warrants in the same fashion. He said it’s safer for officers and the occupants of the residence.

“If we would happen to take fire, we are able to retreat to our last known hard cover,” Meyer said. “Then it’s a waiting game.”

Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak said his department has not performed a no-knock warrant in the past 10 years. Duchak said he can only remember being part of one in his 33-year career, and that was in the 1990s.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, if one is issued, it’s because the threat assessment is high,” Duchak said. “There are likely firearms in the place you are going into and the threat level is so high you want to want to get in as quickly as possible before they have a chance to get their weapons. The purpose is to de-escalate, not to escalate.”

No-knock warrants matter of circumstance, not policy

Oakwood Police Chief Alan Hill said each warrant is considered by a judge under their own separate circumstances, and are not something a police department can dictate by policy.

“Judges nationally approve them all the time and they deny them all the time,” Hill said. “If it doesn’t make the burden of proof, it means it won’t be approved.”

According to Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims, the process begins with a request to the judge for what is called the “statutory precondition for nonconsensual entry” be waived in relation to the search warrant. In the Ohio Revised Code, it means an officer or other authorized authority must give notice to their intention to execute the warrant and then be refused admittance before they can legally break down the door.

To get a waiver from a judge, an affidavit (usually written by a law enforcement official and presented by a prosecutor) must be filed with the following information:

  1. A statement there is good cause to believe there is the risk of serious harm to law enforcement executing the warrant if they are forced to knock and announce their presence.
  2. Supporting statements, including facts known regarding high probability risks of serious physical harm, such as criminal history of residents or persons on the premisise.
  3. An additional statement verifying the address of the premises to be search, emphasizing the correct location as well as the underlying criminal violation being invetiated
  4. A specific request, based on the previous facts, the judge or magistrate waive the statutory precondition for nonconsensual entry.

Sims wrote to WDTN.com that if the waiver is granted by the judge, a notification will appear on the warrant itself.

“A no-knock warrant is a rare circumstance for us and never taken lightly,” Sims wrote. “A supervisor is always involved and these will always require the use of the Warren County Tactical Response Unit to execute.”

A similar process is conducted by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. According to Staff Lt. Craig Cvetan, public affairs commander, the nature of OSHP operations would make it uncommon for the agency to request a no-knock warrant.

“Warrants issued to the patrol are served by members of the Special Response Team (SRT),” Cvetan wrote to WDTN.com. “This restriction does not include arrest warrants during the course of a traffic stop or on-scene investigation.”

To read the state law on law enforcement warrants, visit the Ohio Revised Code website.

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