Police use of no knock searches appears to be declining in Minnesota, after Amir Locke, 22-years-old, was shot and killed by a Minneapolis officer in February. However there are still stark racial differences in who law enforcement targets.
According to new state data, police and sheriffs made an average of 14 no knock entries per month between September and January. This dropped significantly between February, when Locke was murdered, and April.
Despite the fact that the state’s law enforcement reported only eight no-knock raids total in three months after Locke’s death on February 2, four of the nine victims were Black, the raids saw the execution of eight raids. Locke was also Black.
The decline was largely due to the fact that Mayor Jacob Frey prohibited officers from using this tactic following the Bolero Flats apartment buildings raid in which Locke died. A Minneapolis officer killed Locke, despite him not being the target. More than a third (or more) of all no-knock searches warrants issued in Minnesota during the five months preceding Locke’s death was requested by the city.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, which has the second-highest no-knock search warrants issued, also executed fewer raids following Locke’s death. According to a spokesperson for the office, officials have stopped using the practice earlier in the year and are currently reevaluating their search warrant policy. The sheriff’s office quietly suspended no-knock warrants, unlike in Minneapolis, where Frey announced the change at a press conference.
Bill Hutton is the executive director of Minnesota Sheriffs’Association. He said that he suspects there may be a combination factors behind the decline in no knock searches. These include sensitivity to controversy about the tactic and new policies restricting their use in metropolitan-area departments.
Hutton stated that the vast majority of these were from urban areas.
The statewide data is derived from a 2021 state law that requires police to report information on no-knock warrants to the state. After Locke’s death, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension made a limited amount of preliminary data public in February. The BCA has more information.
Law enforcement reported that they executed 94 no-knock warrants of search between September 1 and July 12. However, since police only have three months to provide information on raids, DPS released data in August that was required by law to be complete by April.
However, data shows that police executed 70 no-knock warrants within the five months preceding the raid at Bolero Flats on February 2. Another 10 searches were performed in the first two weeks of February.
Between February 3rd, the day after Locke’s death, and April 31, police in the state only reported eight no-knock warrants. Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office held half of them, while the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office and St. Louis Park and Brooklyn Park departments had one each. In those raids, nine people were targeted: four were Black; two white; two were Asian; one was unknown/not disclosed.
According to data, 25 of the 80 no-knock warrants issued during the Bolero Flats Search were requested by Minneapolis Police. Minneapolis Police has not requested any no-knock warrants for search since January’s end.
Hennepin County reported that it executed 18 no-knock warrants of search between September and February 2, the day Locke was murdered.
St. According to state data, Cloud police executed the third most number of no knock search warrants.
Andy Skoogman is the spokesperson for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. He stated in an email that the department had suspended the use of no knock warrants earlier this year and was reevaluating its policies. Skoogman stated that the same applies to violent offenders and drug task forces in which the county is involved. Hennepin County’s most recent no-knock operation was May 20, in Edina.
Potential flaws exist in the state’s data.
Isanti County reported that it executed four search warrants without knocking. But Sheriff Chris Caulk stated that they were not what most people think of as an unexpected entry into someone’s house. He said that the last time the department entered someone’s home under a warrant of no-knock was in December 2019.
Police may have had to get no-knock warrants of search for items that didn’t involve entering someone else’s home without making an announcement. For example, placing a vehicle tracker onto someone’s car. These cases are sometimes marked in Minnesota data as “non entry into a premises” by some departments. MinnPost didn’t count them as police attempting to enter someone’s house. However, some agencies might have reported them as “no-knock search warrants” without noting the circumstances.
No-knocks for race
Data shows that Black Minnesotans are more likely to be subject to no-knock operations than white Minnesotans.
There were 178 people who had been listed as subject to carried-out no knock warrants since September. 114 of them — 64% — were Black. Blacks make up 7%. Around 24% of no-knock subjects were White; 5% were Native American, and less than 2% were Asian. It was not possible to report the race or ethnicity 10 of these subjects.
Although there were fewer raids during the time following Locke’s death, racial inequalities still existed. Four of the nine people targeted by raids in three months were Black.
The ages of the subjects involved in no-knock raids were between 14 and 82.
No-knocks Minneapolis — Not by Minneapolis police
Minneapolis was the location of slightly more than half the total 94 no-knock searches since September. This city is home to about 7% of Minnesota’s residents. The vast majority of Minneapolis no-knocks were based on warrants issued by the city police, but many were also requested and granted by Hennepin County authorities. Minneapolis raids by Hennepin County were all connected to a task force for drug and violent offenders, which often involves multiple police agencies. A task force was responsible for approximately 46% of all no-knock search executions across the state. )
According to state data, five no-knock warrants were executed in Minneapolis on February 2, the date Locke was murdered. Four more were executed the day before. Minneapolis police only requested one of the nine. All nine were requested by St. Paul police, who asked for a judge to issue a search warrant without knocking in the Bolero Flats raid. This was at the request of Minneapolis police.
The metro area has the majority of no-knocks
About 55% of the state’s total population lives in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. More than 80% of the state’s 94 no knock search warrants were executed in the metro.
St. Cloud police. Zero no-knock searches warrants were executed in Rochester and Duluth. These are the largest cities in Greater Minnesota.
Very few no-knock warrants are denied
The state data contains instances where officers were given a no-knock warrant for a search warrant but didn’t carry out the search. Some people reported that they were allowed to “knock and Announce” their entry into a premises, while others claimed they did not enter the premises at all and instead placed a tracker on a vehicle, or had a dog sniff for evidence.
Judges rarely seem to refuse no-knock warrant requests, but that is rare. Police said that only five of the 206 “warrant request” reports to the state were denied. Minneapolis, Hennepin County, and New Hope officers reported each one warrant requested, but it was not issued. Brooklyn Park police reported two.
No-knocks that were not committed before Locke’s death were most often due to violations of weapon law (31%), but only two cases in the time since Locke was killed listed weapons as the primary reason they sought a warrant. Drug violations and assault are also common reasons for no knock warrants.