Baltimore Sun

State’s At­tor­ney Mosby wants to ban no-knock war­rants in Bal­ti­more

Of­fi­cial cites death of Bre­onna Tay­lor in Louisville

- By Tim Pru­dente Bal­ti­more Sun re­porter Justin Fen­ton con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. Crime · Incidents · Baltimore · Louisville · Kentucky · Louisville · Baltimore · Baltimore County · Maryland · Reistertown, MD

Bal­ti­more State’s At­tor­ney Marilyn Mosby has di­rected city pros­e­cu­tors not to au­tho­rize “no-knock” war­rants, say­ing the po­lice shoot­ing of Bre­onna Tay­lor in Louisville, Ken­tucky, demon­strates these war­rants are too risky.

“The ends do not jus­tify the means,” Mosby wrote her staff Wed­nes­day. “Sev­en­teen states do not al­low this tac­tic, and our office will also no longer sign off on this dan­ger­ous mea­sure.”

Po­lice are usu­ally re­quired to knock on the door and an­nounce their pres­ence when serv­ing an ar­rest war­rant. But of­fi­cers may re­quest writ­ten ap­proval from a judge to con­duct a no-knock war­rant if they be­lieve that an­nounc­ing their pres­ence could cause ev­i­dence to be de­stroyed or peo­ple to be hurt. It’s up to a judge to ap­prove or deny that re­quest.

Mosby’s or­der drew swift crit­i­cism from the Bal­ti­more Po­lice union. Union Pres­i­dent Mike Man­cuso urged city judges to con­tinue to use their dis­cre­tion and ap­prove no-knock war­rants when jus­ti­fied.

“A judge should be the only per­son who de­cides whether a no-knock is war­ranted, af­ter a thor­ough re­view of the prob­a­ble cause in the af­fi­davit,” he wrote. “This ac­tion is com­pletely ir­re­spon­si­ble and an over­reach, though pre­dictable. We urge all Bal­ti­more City judges not to get caught up in the agen­das of oth­ers, but to con­tinue to fol­low the facts as pre­sented.”

The tac­tic of no-knock war­rants has drawn fierce crit­i­cism around the coun­try af­ter Tay­lor, a 26-year-old emer­gency room tech­ni­cian, was shot and killed in her home by Louisville po­lice of­fi­cers serv­ing a no-knock nar­cotics war­rant last March. Tay­lor’s boyfriend has said he fired one shot, be­liev­ing an in­truder was break­ing in. An of­fi­cer was wounded in his leg.

Po­lice opened fire and shot Tay­lor mul­ti­ple times. She died in the hall­way; her boyfriend was not hurt. Po­lice found no drugs in the house. Last month, a Ken­tucky grand jury in­dicted one of the of­fi­cers on charges of wan­ton en­dan­ger­ment for fir­ing aim­lessly into the wall. None were in­dicted on charges for her death. That de­ci­sion in­cited protests in the streets and led about 75 peo­ple to march through Bal­ti­more.

Mean­while, state and lo­cal law­mak­ers took up mea­sures to ban or restrict the use of no-knock war­rants. In Bal­ti­more County, Coun­cil­man Ju­lian Jones has pushed leg­is­la­tion to limit the use of no-knock war­rants there. His at­tempts at re­forms have met re­sis­tance from county po­lice. Some of­fi­cers de­fend no-knock war­rants as an im­por­tant tool in dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions, say, if a sus­pect has hostages or guns.

“One of the most dan­ger­ous places for a po­lice of­fi­cer serv­ing a search war­rant is in front of a door, knock­ing,” Man­cuso wrote on­line. “This ac­tion gives vi­o­lent crim­i­nals the op­por­tu­nity to arm them­selves, which should never oc­cur. The el­e­ment of sur­prise should be af­forded to po­lice when­ever the cir­cum­stances per­mit.”

It was not clear how fre­quently no-knock war­rants are ap­proved in Bal­ti­more. A spokes­woman for the Bal­ti­more Po­lice said the office doesn’t track them. A spokes­woman for Mary­land courts said the ju­di­ciary also doesn’t keep track.

Pa­tri­cia DeMaio, the city’s deputy state’s at­tor­ney of ma­jor crimes, ac­knowl­edged pros­e­cu­tors don’t have au­thor­ity to stop po­lice from ex­e­cut­ing a no-knock war­rant ap­proved by a judge. DeMaio, how­ever, said

Mosby’s di­rec­tive makes clear the office does not ap­prove of such tac­tics.

“We work with our law en­force­ment part­ners and we­have the same goal in mind, which is the pur­suit of jus­tice. But we also have to look at what the cit­i­zens of our coun­try are say­ing that they want,” DeMaio said. “We can’t sit silently.”

In 2012, a Reis­ter­stown man at­tacked an of­fi­cer with a sword when po­lice rushed into his home on a no-knock war­rant. They shot and killed him. Po­lice were search­ing for a sus­pect in an at­tempted mur­der.

Prom­i­nent Bal­ti­more de­fense at­tor­ney War­ren Brown said of­fi­cers have plenty of dis­cre­tion on how they ex­e­cute a war­rant, re­gard­less of whether it’s knock-and-an­nounce or no-knock.

“If they don’t get a no-knock, they will go and tap lightly at the door and an­nounce very qui­etly that it’s the po­lice,” he said. “No one says they have to scream it.”

Brown said de­ter­mined of­fi­cers and judges will find rea­son to jus­tify a no-knock war­rant. Still, he rec­og­nized Mosby’s mes­sage.;p[]“It’s some­thing that is con­sis­tent with the mind­set of a lot of peo­ple, that this may be a lit­tle anachro­nis­tic,” he said, “that this is a di­nosaur.”

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