As city officials reevaluate the NYPD's use of "no-knock" warrants following several questionable raids they executed in Queens, police officials defended the practice on Thursday, saying "it's not always simple or perfect."
At a news conference at police headquarters, Chief of Police Rodney Harrison, flanked by high-ranking officials including Commissioner Dermot Shea, said no-knock warrants—where officers use a warrant to legally barge into the home of someone they suspect of committing a crime without waiting for the person to allow them inside—are useful in ridding narcotics and guns off the street. Police say the use ensures no evidence is destroyed.
“It’s not always simple or perfect. These are highly complex situations. They involve very, very dangerous circumstances with meticulous planning,” Harrison, reading from prepared remarks, said at the news conference.
Last year, the New York City court system approved 1,815 warrants, resulting in 792 firearms seized and 667 instances where illegal narcotics were found, according to police. Of those warrants, 40 resulted in no evidence found. In every instance, a judge signs off on a warrant following a police investigation and complaints made to police.
“This is a very serious matter. It’s serious for the homeowners that we get it right, it’s serious for the people of the community that want to live in safety and it’s absolutely serious for the men and women who put on a vest and go out and put themselves in harm’s way,” Shea said.
The NYPD's defense of the practice came days after a series of stories published in the New York Daily News detailing three raids at a number of homes in Queens going back to 2017 that are now under review by the city. One no-knock warrant had the wrong Far Rockaway address, resulting in a family being violently awakened and frightened by gun-toting officers. And Tijuana Brown, a Jamaica resident, told NY1 that police stormed her home using a battering ram last month over suspected drug and gun sales inside. After an hour rifling through her home, police turned up only a small trace of marijuana.
“They said it was a bust and then said, ‘Sorry for the inconvenience.’ And they left. But this is definitely more than an inconvenience,” Brown told NY1.
Her nephew, Andre Brown, was arrested for the small amount of marijuana, but charges were dropped a week later.
At Monday news briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters that the no-knock warrant is "something we've got to reevaluate now."
"That could have gone in a very bad direction," de Blasio said. "We've gotta really do everything we can to avoid something like that happening [...] So, that's a discussion we're having right now with the NYPD to determine where we need to go"
NYPD Assistant Chief Joseph Kenny said at the news conference that the police did not make a mistake in those raids.
“We were absolutely 100% in the right spot,” Kenny said.
The practice has fallen under intense scrutiny in recent years, notably after the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisille, KY, who was fatally shot by police last year after they executed a no-knock warrant. Louisville officers believed that Taylor's ex-boyfriend was using her apartment for drug deals, but Taylor did not have a criminal history. After police broke the door off her apartment, Taylor's current boyfriend fired, thinking they were being robbed, and officers returned fired, fatally shooting Taylor.
Brown said she will sue the city.