The NYPD’s use of so-called “no-knock” warrants, in which officers are allowed to conduct a surprise raid on a location, have a time and place in law enforcement.
They can be justified if there is the threat of imminent violence, say when tracking down a killer, ending a hostage standoff or investigating a terrorist threat.
But their use to track down drug dealers or other nonviolent offenders is a tragedy waiting to happen.
The use of no-knock warrants came under intense public scrutiny after Breonna Taylor was killed in Louisville, Kentucky in a badly botched raid on her home.
Police were looking for a suspected drug dealer but had the wrong location, and the ER tech was killed when her boyfriend fired a warning shot at the officers, who he said never identified themselves.
That was a high-profile case that happened in another state, but the NYPD has been known to use no-knock warrants as well.
On the morning of March 19, Debra Cottingham was asleep in her Laurelton home when police burst through her front door. They were looking for her boyfriend’s son, a suspected drug dealer, but he hasn’t lived in the home since 2018.
Cottingham is a retired Corrections officer and legally owns two handguns. Before she could react, officers were at her bedroom door shining bright lights on her.
If Cottingham had the time to grab one of her guns out of fear of an intruder, things could have turned deadly quickly and an innocent person could have been killed.
A bill introduced last year in the state legislature would limit the use of no-knock warrants to the most serious cases. Using them in drug case would be banned.
Elected officials in Albany should act to pass this bill, not to handcuff cops or protect criminals, but to ensure that no innocent people are killed because of one tragic mistake.