House Democrats author new bill tightening restrictions on no-knock warrants

Democrats have introduced a bill to limit the use of no-knock warrants in Minnesota following the death of Amir Locke.

Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services/Facebook

(The Center Square) — Rep. Athena Hollins, DFL-Saint Paul, is authoring a bill that would tighten restrictions on no-knock warrants in Minnesota.

The Minnesota House DFL announced the legislation Tuesday at a news conference attended by Amir Locke’s aunt Neka Gray and cousin Nneka Constantino.

Locke, 22, was killed Feb. 2 in a downtown Minneapolis apartment by Minneapolis police. The officers executed a no-knock search warrant for a St. Paul homicide investigation. An officer shot Locke three times, nine seconds after police entered the apartment, body camera footage showed. Locke was holding a gun as he stirred from under a blanket. Locke’s family said he owned the gun legally. Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman said Locke wasn’t listed on the search warrant. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has paused no-knock warrants until new policy is created, he said in a statement.

“[Our family wants] to make sure there isn’t another Amir, that another family doesn’t have to go through what our family is going through right now,” Gray said. “The no-knock warrant significantly needs to be changed within our community, here in the state of Minnesota and nationally.”

Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, said that if Hollins’ 2021 no-knock warrant bill, HF 1762, had passed last year, Locke would still be alive. Last year’s bill would have required applications for no-knock warrants to explain why police officers could not detain the suspect or search the residence using less invasive means or methods and what investigation has supported the issuance of the no-knock warrant or why no investigation was required.

Under this year’s bill, police seeking to obtain a no-knock warrant would need to prove that using a standard warrant would endanger a life, a DFL news release said. The Peace Officers Standards and Training Board could suspend the licenses of officers who “knowingly participate” in no-knock warrant executions that weren’t approved by a judge.

Hollins said bill supporters are in communication with stakeholders to properly identify appropriate exceptions.

“No-knock warrants are a tool in a toolbox, but it’s a tool that should only be used in the tiniest sliver of cases: kidnapping, hostage situations and human trafficking,” Hollins said at the conference.

Hollins said in the release that no-knock warrants are a Fourth Amendment rights issue.

“The Fourth Amendment guarantees us the right to be secure in our houses; to not fear that the State will enter like a thief in the night,” she said. “This fear should not exist in our cities and communities, let alone our own homes. After seeing interest in legislation like this from Republican leaders in the Senate, we are hoping for a swift, painless standalone passage of this bill into law.”

Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Golden Valley, said at the conference that a limit on no-knock warrants would benefit law enforcement as well.

“Others have said a critical component of true public safety is ensuring we have a policing system that doesn’t put members of the public in harm’s way unnecessarily, that doesn’t put police officers in harm’s way unnecessarily, and doesn’t put both community and officers in a system that’s not working and puts all of us at risk,” Hortman said. “We have to have greater accountability and transparency in order to have community trust in law enforcement, and law enforcement cannot do its job if there’s not a relationship of trust there.”

Hortman said Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee Chair Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-Saint Paul, is committed to holding hearings for the bill, which may take place next week.


Mary Stroka

Mary Stroka is a contributor at The Center Square.