Resolution recommending law enforcement policy regarding search/arrest warrants
Proposed by Richard McManus, Jan. 28, 2021
Recommended “Do Pass” by Issues and Education Committee, Feb. 9, 2021
Suggested Law Enforcement Policy and Procedure for the Planned Service of Arrest Warrants or Search Warrants and Residences
WHEREAS Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, was fatally shot in her home just after midnight on March 13, 2020 by Louisville, Kentucky police officers in plain clothes serving a “no knock” search warrant for narcotics shortly after police used a battering ram to force entry into her home;
WHEREAS neither Breonna Taylor or her companion Kenneth Walker were suspects in any crime, nor was there any evidence that narcotics were being sold out of the home, nor was there evidence that anyone else living at Breonna’s home was selling narcotics or committing any crime;
WHEREAS Washington State law, RCW 10.31.040, prohibits no-knock warrants, but does not establish limits as to the time of day or night that arrest or search warrants may be served, nor does it require approval by a police chief or sheriff when a warrant will be served at night when there is greater risk that a resident would assume their home was being broken into, nor does it establish a reasonable amount of time that officers must wait before forcing entry into a residence, nor does it require police officers to be in uniform and immediately recognizable as police officers;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the 21st Legislative District Democrats encourage amending RCW 10.31.040 to limit the hours of the day that certain arrest and search warrants can be served at residences, to establish specific requirements for how the officers announce their presence and the uniform that they will wear, to specify the amount of time that officers must wait before forcing entry into the residence and what limited circumstances allow exceptions to that requirement, and to mandate agencies adopt a model policy and procedure approved by the legislature to adopt in their own policies and procedures.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED the 21st Legislative District Democrats urges all Washington State law enforcement agencies to adopt the “Suggested Law Enforcement Policy and Procedure for the Planned Service of Arrest Warrants or Search Warrants” attached to and incorporated into this Resolution.
Suggested Model Law Enforcement Agency Policy and Procedure for the Planned Service of Arrest Warrants or Search Warrants at Residences
It is the purpose of this policy and procedure to reduce the risk of violence by and upon occupants of a residence when an arrest or search warrant is being served by law enforcement officers. To achieve that goal, this policy limits the hours of the day that certain warrants can be served and requires a warrant service procedure that clearly specifies how occupants will be given notice of the warrant service, the minimum amount of time law enforcement officers must wait before entering a residence, and what limited circumstances will allow exceptions to that procedure. This policy and procedure is intended to reduce the risk of injury to innocent and uninvolved residents and bystanders in the proximity of the warrant service, law enforcement officers serving the warrant, and occupants of the residence where warrants are being served.
“Chief Law Enforcement Officer” means the head of the law enforcement agency, either the chief (police agency) or sheriff (sheriff’s department), or the assigned acting chief or sheriff in the absence of the chief or sheriff. “Chief Law Enforcement Officer” does not include any other designee assigned by a chief or sheriff to act on their behalf.
“Crime Against Persons” means the criminal offenses of murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, felony assaults, rape, robbery, 1st degree arson, 1st degree burglary, 1st degree extortion, 1st and 2nd degree criminal mistreatment, indecent liberties, incest, vehicular homicide or assault, child molestation, 1st degree promoting prostitution, bomb threats against a person, unlawful imprisonment, or felony stalking crimes.
“Planned Service” means that law enforcement officers are at a residence specifically for the intended purpose of serving an arrest warrant or search warrant, and there is no other reason for law enforcement officers to be at the residence except for that purpose. Planned service does not include a law enforcement presence that was summoned for or required by a reason other than the arrest warrant/search warrant, or that was incidental to the law enforcement officer performing their normal duties. If, for example, officers are lawfully at the residence in response to a 911 call and a subject with a warrant is contacted, or the officers have in hand a search warrant for the location, the arrest warrant or search warrant may be served in conjunction with the lawful purpose for which they are already there or are already in contact with the subject for.
“Residence” for the purposes of this policy and procedure, means a home, apartment, temporary lodging such as hotel or motel, or a building or structure that is recognizable as primarily being used as a location for individual(s) to live, cook, and sleep. Vehicles are not considered residences for the purpose of this policy.
When conducting a “Planned Service” of an arrest warrant or search warrant at a residence, officers will comply with the policies associated for each of the following circumstances:
Warrant Related to Misdemeanor Crimes:
When the service of an arrest warrant or search warrant is related to a misdemeanor crime, no warrant service may occur after 10:00 PM or before 7:00 AM.
Warrant Related to Felony Crime that IS NOT a Crime Against Persons:
When the service of an arrest warrant or search warrant is related to a felony crime that IS NOT a criminal offense listed as a “Crime Against Persons,” no warrant service may occur after 10:00 PM or before 7:00 AM EXCEPT when there are objective and articulable facts that establish an individual named in the arrest or search warrant presents an imminent risk of significant injury to another person if not immediately located and placed in custody, in which case the warrant may be served at any time of the day or night following the procedures described herein.
Warrant Related to Felony Crime that IS a Crime Against Persons:
When the service of an arrest warrant or search warrant is related to a felony crime that IS a criminal offense listed as a “Crime Against Persons,” the warrant may be served at any time of the day or night following the procedures described herein.
1. A written agency operations plan is required for any “planned service” of an arrest or search warrant at a residence.
2. In anycase where an arrest warrant or search warrant will be served between the hours of 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM, the chief law enforcement officer in the jurisdiction where the arrest warrant or search warrant will be served must review the operations plan for the service of the warrant and establish:
· there are objective and articulable facts justifying the service of the arrest warrant during night-time hours where there is an increased the risk of dangerous confrontations; and
· the operations plan includes the identification of all subjects, including children, that are expected to be in the residence when the arrest warrant or search warrant will be served, and a risk assessment has been completed which accounts for any known subjects identified in the operations plan; and
· for any subjects identified through a risk assessment as potentially dangerous subjects, opportunities to locate and arrest the subject(s) away from the residence where the arrest warrant or search warrant will be served have been considered and, where feasible, incorporated into the operations plan; and
· the individual officer supervising or leading the physical service of the warrant has personally viewed the location of the planned service and physically verified the actual residence where the warrant will be served by either description, address, or both; has planned for a route to the location ensuring that the location where the warrant will be served is the correct and intended location and, in the case of a search warrant, the location named in the warrant; and the officer will be physically present at the time the warrant is served to confirm the validity of the location at the time the warrant is served; and
· all officers involved in the service of the warrant will be in police uniform; and
· body cameras, when available, will be worn and activated.
3. The service of arrest warrants and search warrants, regardless of the hour of day, will include the following:
· loud, repeated hard knocks upon the primary door or entry area such that they would typically be heard throughout the residence, accompanied by the use of a doorbell, buzzer, or other device at the door or entry area customarily used to notify residents that someone is at the door; and
· a loud and clear announcement of the name of the law enforcement agency, the purpose for their presence, and a demand to allow entry; and
· a count to not less than 12 seconds; and
· a repeated knock and announcement as described above; and
· a count to not less than 6 seconds, and
· at that time an immediate entry is authorized if admittance has been refused either through an active response (locking the door, sounds of flight or verbal refusal) or there has been no response at all; and
· when any entry is made without admittance by occupants, law enforcement officers will loudly announce their agency and purpose as they enter the residence.
4. The requirement to knock, announce, wait, knock, announce and wait again are not required when:
· it would be apparent to anyone in the residence that law enforcement officers were already at the location and likely to seek entry at some point, or already had demanded entry and been denied, as in the case of a barricaded subject; or
· when it is obvious to the officers demanding entry by the words and actions of the occupants of the residence that the occupants have become aware of the officers presence and they do not intend to comply with the demand for entry, as may be indicated by the flight of the subjects, direct observation of the destruction of evidence, or any announcement the subjects might make to the law enforcement officers refusing admittance; or
· when an exigent circumstance develops prior to entry that demands an immediate entry, such as an occupant of the residence being threatened with death or serious physical injury; or
· when the chief law enforcement officer of the jurisdiction in which the arrest or search warrant is being served identifies specific objective and articulable facts and circumstances such as the opportunity and likelihood of occupants
accessing (change to acquiring) weapons, or the likelihood that an occupant will be seriously injured, or the likelihood that evidence of a felony crime will be destroyed. In cases where the chief law enforcement officer reasonably finds such circumstances exist, the officers serving the warrant may eliminate the need for a second knock and announcement and determine the appropriate amount of time to wait following the initial knock and announcement. However, in no case may the initial knock and announce of office (the police department) and purpose be eliminated by this determination.
5. The knock and wait requirements of this procedure establish(es the) minimum times and notice requirements. Nothing in this procedure precludes additional time and notice at the discretion of the officers attempting service of the warrant if deemed safe and reasonable under the circumstances.