S.C. activists push for permanent ban on ‘no-knock’ warrants

(Source: Associated Press)
(Source: Associated Press)(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 10:36 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A piece of South Carolina’s justice system is now under the under the microscope, and a leader in South Carolina’s recent protests wants it gone.

On June 10, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Beatty ordered a pause in “no-knock” warrants.

His order reads in part:

“A recent survey of magistrates revealed that most do not understand the gravity of no-knock warrants and do not discern the heightened requirements for issuing a no-knock warrant,” the order reads. “It further appears that no-knock search warrants are routinely issued upon request without further inquiry.”

The move comes after activist Demetris Hill and other leaders of recent justice reform protests released a series of demands to state leaders in June.

The demands included the end of “no-knock” warrants, where officers are allowed to enter a suspect’s home without announcing themselves.

The leaders pushed for South Carolina to adopt a law similar to Oregon’s, which reads in part:

“The executing officer shall, before entering the premises, give appropriate notice of the identity, authority, and purpose of the officer to the person to be searched.”

Hill said reform of the "no-knock" policies is not needed, just its' removal.

"It's dangerous for everybody. It's dangerous for the cops to come into someone's house without them knowing, especially if you don't know what you have," she said.

"It just doesn't make sense to me. A lot of people have lost their lives, a lot of people have been hurt. If the cops do come in, guns blazing, and you have a gun, then we have a shoot-out with the police, in my house. They're not thinking about that."

Executive Director of Empower SC Rye Martinez sent WIS the following statement:

“We published our policy demands, and the leaders are listening. Now that the Supreme Court of South Carolina has put a ban on no-knock warrants, there will be no more assassinations by police like the case of Breonna Taylor’s!

This may be temporary but it's a step in the right direction.

No knock warrants have (sic) been used as a tool for police to fight against the oppressed for years. That has come to a stop now thanks to the decision by the Supreme Court.”

Taylor’s death is connected to a no-knock warrant in Louisville.

Columbia Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Timmons said CPD does not use “no-knock” warrants.

Richland County Sheriff's Department Deputy Chief Stan Smith oversees the criminal investigative division.

Smith said the order will not impact his team’s procedures, as its policy is for deputies to announce themselves, and then give 10 seconds before entering a home.

He said traditionally, fast entry search warrants are used where evidence could be disposed of quickly (such as drugs being flushed down a toilet).

St. George Police Department Chief Brett Camp represents Orangeburg County and Calhoun County for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers' Association.

He said the warrants also help with officer safety, but he does foresee the debate as an opportunity for South Carolina.

"This [warrant] is a benefit that to get criminals off the streets. I would like for us to be able to work out it to where we can continue to use it. We have to study it, we have to research it, we have to look at what's best," he said.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Public Information Officer Tommy Crosby sent WIS the following statement:

“SLED is aware of the order issued by the South Carolina Supreme Court placing a moratorium upon the issuance of no-knock warrants. As with all orders and laws, SLED will proceed accordingly in the execution of our duties.

South Carolina Fraternal Order of Police President Terry Gainey sent WIS the following statement:

As the moratorium is written, Justice Beatty requiring more training is a good thing. The 1995 case, Wilson vs. Arkansas upheld that the fourth amendment requires reasonable knock and announce requirements. However, an officer may specifically request a no-knock exception for a search warrant, guidelines and training could be a welcomed standard.

There is always a danger that bad information may lead officers to a wrong address on a search warrant,. It doesn’t happen often, but if it does, it can mean unintended tragedy to both sides of the equation.”

Beatty’s order is in effect until he alters or revokes it.

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