Some Dane County Board members are starting to show public opposition to no-knock warrants, a police strategy used by Louisville police officers when they shot and killed Breonna Taylor over a year ago.
The Board cannot officially ban no-knock warrants in the county, but they can formally propose that the Sheriff’s Office limit the use of the tactic. No resolution has been passed, but one is gathering signatures from board members.
The Dane County Police Department already uses no-knock warrants sparingly. In 2020, the Sheriff’s office executed surprise raids 11 times: one for armed robbery, one for burglary, four for homicide and five for drug offenses.
“[No-knock warrants are] a valuable tool for law enforcement to prevent death and/or great bodily harm to individuals within a residence, as well as to law enforcement,” Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney told the Wisconsin State Journal.
No-knock warrants in Wisconsin must be approved by a judge, and police are not allowed to execute a no-knock warrant if a child is present.
“We use every effort to ensure there’s a need to do a warrant at that time, and that that is the location that we need to do that warrant at,” Mahoney said. “We don’t want to execute a warrant of any type in the wrong place or with bad information.”
District 8 Supervisor Carousel Bayrd views that possible uncertainty as a reason to ban the practice entirely. Officers can always make a mistake because it is hard to be certain whether a child is present in the home.
No-knock warrants are also disproportionately used against people of color. In 2014, 42 percent of the 800 SWAT raids involving no-knock warrants were targeted towards Black people.
In June, Monona police executed a no-knock warrant with guns drawn, and handcuffed a Black man who had been accused of squatting, before realizing he was staying there with permission from the owner.
“The history of no-knock warrants is really concerning,” Bayrd said during a county board meeting Sunday. “It’s based really in the war on drugs and the over policing and criminalization of people of color.”
Activists across the nation have been pushing to ban no-knock warrants since Louisville police officers killed Breonna Taylor in a surprise raid last March. Taylor’s death prompted some states and cities to prohibit the use of no-knock warrants, including Virginia, Louisville and Indianapolis.
Other states like Florida and Oregon already had a ban on no-knock warrants before Taylor’s death, and Kentucky recently passed a partial ban this March.
In the 2021-23 State Budget, Governor Tony Evers proposed a no-knock warrant ban in Wisconsin. His proposal will have a difficult execution because of the Republican-domianted Legislature.
Bayrd said the current Sheriff’s department has not abused the no-knock warrant, but that it doesn’t mean future sheriffs won’t. Her resolution currently has 14 cosponsors, but the county board has 37 members.
The Public Protection & Judiciary Committee will meet again this Tuesday, April 13 to discuss the no-knock ban proposal.