Memphis police department to stop using no-knock warrants

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Police Department has decided to stop using “no-knock” warrants in the wake of the fatal shooting of a black Kentucky woman by narcotics detectives who burst into her home.

Memphis police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said the move to eliminate no-knock warrants had been a source of discussion since the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, who was killed in March after police detectives smashed through her front door while serving a drug warrant in Louisville.

The change in Memphis was announced during a meeting this week with local activists seeking reforms to policies related to use of force by police, Rudolph said Friday.

No-knock search warrants allow officers to enter a home without announcing their presence, often in drug cases to prevent suspects from getting rid of evidence.

In Taylor’s case, three narcotics detectives had a no-knock warrant when they busted down the door of Taylor’s apartment after midnight on March 13. They were investigating a drug dealer who was arrested elsewhere the same day. Police said the dealer was using Taylor’s address to receive packages they believed could be drugs. No drugs were found at her apartment.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, told investigators that he thought he was being robbed or that it might be an ex-boyfriend of Taylor’s trying to get in. Walker told police he heard knocking but didn’t know who it was. He said he and Taylor were moving toward the door when it was knocked down, so he fired a shot that hit an officer.

Authorities had charged Walker with attempted murder but dropped the case.

Louisville’s Metro Council recently voted to ban the use of no-knock warrants, and Democrats and activists in major U.S. cities are calling for an end to them.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, has introduced legislation to stop the use of no-knock warrants.

In Chattanooga, Mayor Andy Berke said the police department has not used no-knock warrants for some time.

In recent weeks, protesters around the U.S. have taken to the streets to voice their anger at cases of alleged police brutality in places such as Louisville and Minneapolis, where George Floyd died in late May after a white police officer pinned him down by pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck during an attempted arrest. Floyd, who was black, was handcuffed and saying he couldn’t breathe as the officer continued to kneel on him.

Memphis has also updated its policy related to officers’ duties when they see improper conduct by a colleague.

A previous policy called for officers to report policy violations and improper conduct to the department. The policy was recently modified to order officers to “take reasonable action to intervene” if dangerous or criminal conduct, or abuse of a subject, is observed.