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Cincinnati Police To Change Procedure On No-Knock Warrants

breonna taylor memorial
Ryan Van Velzer
Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot and killed when police in Louisville, Ky., executed a no-knock warrant at her apartment March 13, 2020. Her death and that of other Black people at the hands of police sparked protests around the country.

The Cincinnati Police Department is changing its written procedures on the execution of warrants, eliminating the use of no-knock warrants unless someone is at risk of serious harm.

The changes are detailed in a memo from City Manager Paula Boggs Muething to Mayor John Cranley and City Council members. According to the memo, the police department had already taken steps to "prioritize the protection of life above all else" when executing warrants. But after the city was asked by council and the community to evaluate warrant policies, some changes were agreed upon.

The following requirements will be added to the police department's written procedures:

  • No-knock warrants will be prohibited except in cases where there is probable cause of risk of serious harm to a person. Police must indicate why other methods of intervention will not work and must say why immediate entry is necessary to prevent the harm.
  • Officers must ensure probable cause for warrants is not stale.
  • Requires body-worn cameras be turned on when an officer leaves their vehicle while executing a search warrant involving forced entry on a residential premise.
  • Requires police making the initial forced entry to wear a uniform (standard or tactical) and have a name or badge number visible.
  • Police must document who else they may encounter while executing a warrant, including age, gender, race and medical condition or special circumstance. This should be done "to the extent officers can determine that information."
  • Requires 24-hours of surveillance before forced entry can be executed on a residential premise.

It's unclear from the memo when the changes will go into effect.
The change is happening roughly five months after Council Member Chris Seelbach introduced legislation to limit no-knocks. It was prompted by the deadly police shooting of Louisville woman Breonna Taylor last year.

At the time, Seelbach said officials, experts and activists suggested reforming no-knock warrants as opposed to banning them.

"We really looked at how we can reform and serve warrants better from beginning to end, and so we're not going to ban no-knock warrants," he said.

But the legislation stalled after it became unclear whether City Council has the legal authority to demand policy changes from the Cincinnati Police Department.

Another issue previously raised as part of the no-knock warrants conversation among council was whether no-knocks are disproportionately executed based on race and location.

Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney said officials didn't have that data when the legislation was written.

However, a records request from WVXU showed that while no-knocks have decreased over time, they are disparately executed in historically Black neighborhoods and Black people are drastically more likely to be arrested during the execution of the warrants.

Muething said in the memo, "I extend my sincere thanks to the Cincinnati Police Department, Black United Front, and the Ohio Justice and Policy Center for their engagement and constructive conversations."

Memo No Knocks by Jolene Almendarez on Scribd

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.