COLUMBUS, Ohio—Amid calls to ban “no-knock” warrants after the death of Louisville’s Breonna Taylor, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and prosecutors from the state’s three largest counties are seeking a “compromise” that would keep such warrants around but make them harder to obtain.
In a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine and legislative leaders, Yost and the prosecutors for Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Hamilton counties urged changing Ohio law to raise the legal thresholds for judges to issue such warrants, which permit law-enforcement officers to forcible enter a property without first announcing their presence.
They also called for banning “no-knock” warrants for misdemeanor drug possession charges, requiring officers to identify themselves as soon as possible after entering, and mandating the use of police body cameras during entry.
“These are more nuanced and more surgical than an outright ban. And it may be a little bit harder to understand,” Yost, a Columbus Republican, said during an online news conference Thursday. “But it does a better job to balance the need for law enforcement in case of serious crimes to be able to execute search warrants safely against known, dangerous suspects and the right of the community to reside peacefully in their homes.”
Yost and the prosecutors defended the use of “no-knock” warrants, saying they protect law-enforcement officers from harm.
“It is a tool that is rarely used, but when necessary, it needs to be there for them,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley. O’Malley, a Democrat, said that, on average, less than one “no-knock” warrant is issued per year in the county.
But such warrants have come under increasing scrutiny since March 13, when Louisville police broke down the door to Taylor’s apartment and, after being shot at by Taylor’s boyfriend (who thought the officers were intruders), returned fire and killed Taylor. Police were operating under “knock and announce” orders, though they previously got court approval for a “no-knock” warrant.
A Cincinnati city councilman, as well as leaders in other cities, have subsequently called for the ban of “no-knock” warrants.
Yost also said that “no-knock” warrants are being used more frequently than they have in the past. He also said the warrants conflict with Ohio’s “castle doctrine” law, under which residents have no duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense while in their homes.
The Ohio General Assembly is only likely to convene for a few weeks after the election before the current legislative session ends. But Yost expressed hope that lawmakers would add their proposals to one of several pending law-enforcement-related bills.