Ban No-Knock Warrants in NJ
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Breonna Taylor. Her name is just one more added to the list of people who have lost their lives unnecessarily at the hands of the police. Her death, like many, could have been prevented. It's time to make sure we do everything in our power to prevent this from happening again.
To begin, let's take a look at the warrant used at Breonna's house that night. As many of us know, the warrant in question was a no-knock warrant, or a warrant that allows police officers to enter a targeted premises without announcing themselves to any residents there. It first came into effect during the Nixon Administration as the war on drugs raged on, and is commonly touted as a necessary tool for police officers to use in situations where a drug dealer may be operating their business from their location and would be able to dispose of the illegal material in time if the police chose to announce themselves before entering. The other situation that supporters say require the use of no-knock warrants include settings where police may be in danger if they announce themselves and the suspect is able to arm themselves.
But critics note the downfalls of allowing no-knock warrants to be implemented.
1. According to a 2014 article from the ACLU analyzing 800 SWAT responses involving no-knock warrants (62% were for drugs), only 35% of them actually resulted in the police finding any drugs. 36% resulted in nothing, while 29% were not disclosed in incident reports. It's quite evident that no-knock warrants do not have an accurate track record to help argue their merit. (And if you're wondering if something published in 2014 is still accurate now, consider this: no-knock warrants were used around 1,500 times in the 1980s. By 2000, that number was 40,000. And by 2010, the number rose to 60,000-70,000. The trends indicate that without any reform, those numbers will have either stayed the same or gone up).
2. Between 2010 and 2016, at least 94 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers have died as a direct result of no-knock warrants. That's 107 people too many, and the number has only gone up in recent years.
3. Studies indicate that POC are most impacted by no-knock warrants. The 2014 ACLU report mentioned above noted that 39% of no-knock warrants impacted African American communities. 11% impacted Latinx communities. These numbers are more than double of their Caucasian communities (20%). There has always been a race disparity in our police departments and their responses, especially when it comes to the war on drugs. It's beyond time to end that.
4. There is a constitutional issue to arise with using no-knock warrants. The US Constitution specifically states that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Over the years, courts have expanded the definition of a warrant to include a "knock-announce-wait" requirement, which basically mandates that police officers must knock and announce themselves as police officers, then wait a minute before forcefully entering a premise (unless they hear/see someone/something in danger i.e. someone screaming, someone dangling someone off the stairs). But seeing as that description doesn't include the situations that allow the use of no-knock warrants, why do we still need them?
There is much reform to be done when it comes to our police departments. This petition, if and when it is successful, is not going to solve everything. We need to keep fighting and pushing for reform on all accounts, but it is a step in the right decision that we must take.
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