At yesterday’s regular meeting, South Fulton’s City Council passed a resolution in honor of police shooting victim Breonna Taylor. The 26-year old EMT was shot eight times when officers executed a no-knock warrant and entered her home. Meanwhile, the target of the warrant lived miles away and had already been detained before the officers arrived at Taylor’s residence.
South Fulton’s resolution does not completely ban no-knock warrants, but it does add voices to a chorus demanding justice for Taylor. It also brings additional attention to a public safety issue being debated across the nation.
What Does the Resolution Accomplish Specifically?
South Fulton’s resolution calls out Taylor’s death as “outrageous, tragic and senseless” and reaffirms the South Fulton Police Department’s protocols for executing no-knock warrants. The resolution has no impact on the department’s current no-knock warrant policy, but it does prevent Police Chief Keith Meadows from revising the policy without bringing the changes before the City Council.
According to the resolution and in accordance with the South Fulton Police Department’s current policy, no officer or public safety official “shall seek, execute or participate in the execution of a no-knock search warrant at any location within the City, unless such action is approved by the Chief of Police before requesting such warrant from a judge.”
Additionally, “absent exigent circumstances,” when executing a warrant, officers are required to physically knock on an entry door to the premises, verbally announce their presence and intent to serve a warrant and wait at least 15 seconds after the announcement before entering the premises.
When Can a No-Knock Warrant Be Issued in South Fulton?
According to Police Chief Keith Meadows, his department has not executed any no-knock warrants during his two-year tenure. He says that all warrants are executed with the greatest degree of caution, and typically officers’ presence is announced over a P.A. system that can be heard throughout the area.
South Fulton’s resolution does not override the use of a no-knock warrant in the event that it’s suspected that a large number of weapons are inside a residence or business where a warrant is being served. Additionally, it would not prevent a no-knock warrant from being used if a perpetrator inside a building is believed to be guilty of crime, and could potentially destroy evidence suspected to be inside the location before officers enter.
“Those are the two circumstances in which no-knock warrants are supposed to be sought,” Police Chief Keith Meadows said. He added that it is his department’s policy to use them sparingly, and noted that it’s not uncommon for police departments to misuse them.
“Throughout the country, police departments have misused that and after reviewing the circumstances in Louisville, I’m convinced that they misused the no-knock clause for the search warrant,” he said referencing the Breonna Taylor case.
Police Raids and the African-American Community
South Fulton’s no-knock warrant resolution was sponsored by Councilmember Mark Baker. Just before yesterday’s vote on the resolution, he took the opportunity to bring attention to the statistic that of the tens of thousands of police raids each year, African-American households are disproportionately targeted.
He offered the shooting death of Atlanta’s Kathryn Johnston as an example. The 92- year old woman was shot to death in 2006 by officers who were in pursuit of a man suspected to be in possession of illegal drugs.
“I’m grateful for this to be up for consideration,” said Baker. “I just want to be sure that our residents are protected and our police are protected.”
Photo: Breonna Taylor, the 26-year old EMT was shot eight times when officers executed a no-knock warrant and entered her home.
Story Updated on 7/29 at 6:00 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that the City Council has removed “exigent circumstances” from subsection A in the resolution. However, it remains in subsection B, allowing officers to enter premises unannounced under certain circumstances.