Posted: 1/9/2003 10:28:55 PM EDT
I have posted here enough that most of you should know that I am what I say I am (dam, didn’t mean to sound like Popeye). I am a working LEO. So far in my carrier I have participated in 100’s of search warrants as well as probation and parole searches. I have only seen one (1) no knock search warrant in my life. It was for a murder suspect who was in a fortified location and know to be heavily armed. The search warrant was served by the SWAT team with none SWAT in full uniform on the perimeter. As the team made entry, and I mean as they crossed the threshold, they began to identify themselves verbally as well as over the PA from the van out front. The no knock was allowed because of the fortifications and the real danger that this person presented to the officers and the public if he was not taken into custody quickly.
So what is up with all the no knock warrants. Am I just out of the loop? Do any of the working LEO’s in here use no knocks? These things are voodoo around here. None of the detectives I work with, nor my Sgt., nor my Lt. would EVER let us do a no knock without exhausting every other option. Then there is the DA and the Judge who have to be convinced that there is no other way. I do not know about your Judges but mine do not like this kind stuff.
I am feeling like I am missing something.
We run them but usually only on drug houses. We kind of go off the legal guidance on it; we will request a no-knock if we have a serious felony, intel that our suspect is armed and they have a history of violence, particularly against police, and there aren't any other factors that would rule out doing it. We won't do it if we can avoid it. Oftentimes, we will get a "no-knock" clause specifically added to our search warrant, but surveillance and marked patrol cars will sack our suspect on a traffic stop while we are assembling. SWAT serves all of these warrants, with everyone in full uniform (no masks, either). As soon as we start breaching, we identify ourselves.
Most of the time, we knock. When they answer the door, the first, plain clothes officer, talks to the resident while we go in and do the protective sweep. If nobody answers after about a minute or so, we announce and breach. If we got the suspect on a traffic stop prior, we will get the keys from them. If they tell us there is somebody in the house, we will call sometimes on the cell phones to get them out. We'd rather not break the door. No-knocks are kind of a last resort.
An example is the last one I was on. One house that we have served 5 search warrants on in the last 3 years, and two barricaded persons calls. A dope case with at least four subjects, all armed, with histories of assaults on police and others, running from the police and resisting. Also numerous reports of the suspects shooting their AKs in the backyard (with their backstop a local, busy mall). Surveillance was on the house several hours prior, and nobody left, but we knew that they were all there.
We try not to us no-knocks very often; they are a tactic of last resort. Every search or arrest warrant we serve, from a minor traffic one to a major felony, goes through a formal risk assessment and risk mitigation process. The emphasis is on risk mitigation, with the plan doing what is necessary to lessen the risks to everyone involved, officers, the public and suspects alike. It has worked pretty well so far, with nobody (knock on wood) ever getting injured on any of our warrant services.
The few I'm familiar with were on drug houses also. They were based on the history of the people involved, the location, the possible destruction of the evidence inside, and other factors of this nature.
I think they are avoided (by agencies and judges) now days for the liability issues, ie bad guy thought he was getting robbed and started shooting.
No matter what type of warrant it is, everyone (entry and perimeter) is clearly identified by uniform or raid jacket/jersey. On the ones I've been involved with (as investigator), we brought along marked units to assist and add to the visibility issue.