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Minneapolis community reflects on no-knock search warrant policy changes

Minneapolis social justice advocates and community members discuss the history and impact of search warrants on the public and law enforcement alike.
Image by Gabrielle Erenstein
Minneapolis police car in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Friday July 7, 2023.

More than a year after Minneapolis changed its no-knock search warrant policy, community members and advocates reflect on the impacts of search warrants in the city. 

Minneapolis changed its no-knock warrant policy in April 2022 to require officers to wait 20 seconds during the day and wait 30 seconds during the night before entering a building. However, officers could still enter without knocking or announcing themselves if dangerous circumstances occur and harm prevention is needed. 

Additionally, state lawmakers passed a public safety budget including new restrictions on no-knock warrants, which went into effect in July. The restrictions prevent judges from issuing no-knock warrants unless a place is unoccupied, if there is an immediate threat to officers’ safety or if officers announce their presence before entering.

However, according to Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) spokesperson Garret Parten, MPD’s policies have since become even more strict. 

“No-knock search warrants are prohibited,” Parten wrote in an email statement to the Minnesota Daily. “MPD officers shall not apply for or execute a no-knock search warrant, whether for MPD or on behalf of another agency.”

Parten added that the restrictions apply for knock-and-announce warrants as well, and MPD cannot request other agencies execute no-knock warrants in Minneapolis.

In 2022, MPD requested 11 search warrants and executed nine, according to a July 7 report from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). While the number of reported executed no-knock warrants was roughly 73% lower than the previous year, BCA’s data only covered three months of 2021.

MPD was not the only agency to execute no-knock warrants in the city, however. From the three reported months in 2021 to 2022, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office increased its execution of no-knock warrants in the city by 400%, according to the BCA.

Impact of search warrants

More than half of no-knock warrants executed across the state in 2022 were on Black residents, according to the BCA. The report also showed significant racial disparities and disproportionate use of no-knock warrants against Black residents compared to white residents statewide. 

Members of the student organization Knock First at the University of St. Thomas, Alex Kautza and Isabel Hansen, were introduced to the group through the Community Justice Project at St. Thomas. Hansen said the most striking piece of data is the ethnic disparity in no-knock warrant subjects. 

“Black people are almost twice as likely to be the subject of no-knock warrants,” Hansen said. “It’s not unique to Minnesota, but is the most concerning.” 

Kautza said the data concerning race and the intense focus on the Minneapolis area shows how the data reinforce narratives about where crime occurs. 

“Here is this dangerous practice, dangerous for citizens and officers alike, and it’s highly concentrated in Minneapolis, which, of course, is where we have our highest percentages of people of color,” Kautza said. 

Former public defender Abigail Cerra said judges and courts need to change first for Minnesota’s law enforcement to change its practices. Cerra added Hennepin County judges need to be more vigilant and critical when reviewing warrants because of how dangerous the practice is for officers and civilians. 

“Everyone agrees, including law enforcement, that no-knocks are more dangerous,” Cerra said. “I think everyone needs to be more critical of them, starting with the bench.” 

Kautza added judges in Hennepin County need to be held to a higher standard when reviewing, approving and denying no-knock warrants. 

“Judges typically do not have the time necessary to look at if an affidavit for a no-knock warrant is valid,” Kautza said. 

According to Cerra, one of the biggest concerns with no-knock warrants is the danger involved for both law enforcement and citizens, especially considering the rising number of firearms in homes in the United States. 

“By definition, you’re not knocking, not announcing who you are and entering someone’s home,” Cerra said. “How would you not sound like an intruder at that point?” 

Hansen said a complete ban was needed because loopholes still existed in previous policies that made no-knock warrants dangerous for officers and residents. 

“This practice is incredibly dangerous,” Hansen said. “It is also just completely unnecessary, and officers don’t need this extra tool in their toolbox.” 

Founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence (FSFAPV) Toshira Garraway Allen works to advocate for the prevention of harmful interactions with law enforcement and provides support to the people affected by these interactions, especially no-knock warrants.

“My notion in life is an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so if you can prevent something, you don’t have to try to cure it,” Garraway Allen said.

Garraway Allen stressed the importance of a ban on no-knock warrants due to how dangerous they are for police and Black residents, especially following MPD’s findings of discriminatory practices by the Department of Justice and Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

“We understand that there have been people who have never had a bad interaction with a police officer, but you have to take a look at as if you’re typically someone that they would mistreat or discriminate against,” Garraway Allen said. 

Garraway Allen added due to the history of discrimination against people of color by law enforcement, the needed trust between the people and the police has been violated. According to Garraway Allen, there is a misunderstanding between standing up against the wrongful actions done by police and not liking law enforcement at all. 

“When it comes to law enforcement, all human beings have not been protected and served, and we want that to change,” Garraway Allen said. 

FSFAPV also aids survivors of police violence through conversations and community events. Garraway Allen said her goal is to see the community and law enforcement work together to eliminate fear and increase respect, equality and love in Minneapolis. 

“My ultimate goal is to help others in a way I didn’t have at one point, to give support to the community and ultimately, help the community heal,” Garraway Allen said.

Search warrants in the wake of Amir Locke

Karen Wells, the mother of Amir Locke, said no-knock warrants can lead to lethal mistakes by officers and advocated for officers to have serious repercussions after harmful interactions with the public. 

“They should be banned because they are not safe on the police officer’s side of the door, and they’re not safe for the people on the opposite side of the door,” Wells said. 

MPD officer Mark Hanneman shot Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, three times while executing a no-knock warrant from the St. Paul Police Department Homicide Unit in February 2022. Hanneman shot Locke nine seconds after entering the apartment and claimed to see Locke holding a handgun, according to Hanneman’s written statement.

Locke, who was not the subject of the police’s investigation, was sleeping on the couch when members of the MPD SWAT barged inside. Locke was shot twice in the chest and once in his wrist and died 13 minutes later at Hennepin County Medical Center. No charges were filed against Hanneman. 

Three days after his death, several activist groups gathered in downtown Minneapolis for a “Justice for Amir” protest. Protesters called for a ban on no-knock warrants, the resignation of Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman and Mayor Jacob Frey and demanded the prosecution of Hanneman. 

Protests following Locke’s death led to the city changing its policy for MPD roughly two months later

Since her son’s death, Wells said she has had community support for her mental health and well-being and added her goal remains to get justice for her son. One way is by continuing to ban no-knock warrants. 

As far as my son being one casualty in the Twin Cities due to a no-knock warrant, it’s one too many, and I don’t want to see that happen to anyone else,” Wells said.

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