The Potluck

GOP lawmaker opposes ban on no-knock warrants: ‘There are times when you have to use extreme measures’

By: - February 7, 2022 1:23 pm

State Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, speaks on the Senate floor on January 19, 2021. Photo by Catherine J. Davis/Minnesota Senate Media Services

The chair of a powerful Senate committee with jurisdiction over no-knock warrants said he was wary of pursuing new restrictions on their use, rebuffing calls by Democratic lawmakers to take action after Minneapolis police last week killed Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, in a pre-dawn raid.

State Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, told reporters on Monday he is awaiting more information about the underlying search warrant approved in the Feb. 2 raid sought by St. Paul Police and executed by Minneapolis SWAT officers. 

“There appear to be a lot of unanswered questions,” he said. “I really am very cautious about making any further statements until we have more facts about the police action in Minneapolis. We thought Minneapolis had made some corrections in their tactical policies regarding no-knock warrants as of last session. I don’t see that changing right now.”

He also said he did not support a ban on their use, calling them a necessary tool to keep the public safe.

“Police activity is very challenging especially when they’re trying to arrest dangerous criminals,” Limmer said. “There are times when you have to use extreme measures to make their arrest, otherwise the public is in danger,” said Limmer, chair of the Senate​​ judiciary and public safety committee. 

Locke, however, was not the subject of the search warrant and was sleeping on the couch of the apartment officers entered before 7 a.m. on Wednesday.

Limmer noted that the Senate last year approved changes in state law intended to restrict the use of no-knock warrants, and singled out their continued use by Minneapolis. “We thought Minneapolis was getting a handle on no-knock warrants as of last year,” he said. 

Legislation passed last year limits the use of no-knock warrants to daylight hours and requires detailed information about why they are needed instead of knock-and-announce warrants. 

The changes also required such warrants, sometimes referred to as dynamic entry, to get review and approval from a chief law enforcement officer or their designee. A no-knock warrant cannot be issued if the only crime alleged is possession of drugs suspected to be for personal use. 

Limmer’s remarks suggest that the Senate GOP will not immediately take action on the issue, despite growing calls by DFL lawmakers and activists to severely curtail or ban their use. Gov. Tim Walz on Friday was among elected officials who supported additional action, though he did not propose a specific policy. 

A few GOP candidates for governor have similarly called for reviews of the use of no-knock warrants, including Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, and Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake. Former Sen. Scott Jensen of Chaska, who is leading the field, was the first to announce his support for scrutiny of the practice. 

Some members of the House DFL caucus and groups like the Minnesota/Dakotas Area State Conference of the NAACP have called for a statewide ban. 

Locke’s killing is raising intense questions about the use of such police tactics after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who was recently re-elected, campaigned on having banned no-knock warrants except in exigent circumstances. On Friday, Frey issued a so-called moratorium on no-knock warrants except in some circumstances and said they must also be approved by the chief of police — which is already a requirement in state law. 

According to KARE 11, St. Paul police did not request a no-knock warrant, but Minneapolis police insisted. St. Paul Police spokesman Steve Linders said the St. Paul department hasn’t served a no-knock warrant since May 2016.

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