Image by Brett Villena for the Indy Week

The Indy Week’s “Trauma and Lawsuits” article on Wednesday profiles two families’ whose homes were wrongfully invaded by Raleigh police using unconstitutionally quick warrant entries. The families are represented by Emancipate NC and Tin Fulton Walker and Owen in a lawsuit that seeks money damages for the individuals and systemic relief to ban No-Knock and Quick-Knock warrant executions for all of Raleigh.

We’ve just learned that we’ve won the first demand: the Raleigh Police Department banned “No-Knock” warrants on May 17, 2022, after we filed our lawsuit demanding it on February 22, 2022. They have only now revealed it to the public.

The article states (emphasis added):

The day the suit was filed, in February, police chief Estella Patterson told WRAL the RPD does not execute no-knock warrants, although she did not point to a specific policy.

At that time, the RPD’s policy on searches of residences (enacted January 11, 2021) did not include any language about no-knock or quick-knock warrants, merely stating that “a uniformed police officer shall be present if there is reason to believe that forcible entry may be required.”

In response to the INDY’s request for comment in late November, RPD spokesman Lt. Jason Borneo pointed to a revised version of the search policy, apparently adopted in May, three months after the lawsuit was filed. Borneo declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing RPD’s policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

“The officer must give notice of the officer’s authority and purpose before entering,” the policy reads. “The Raleigh Police Department will not seek or serve ‘No-Knock’ search warrants.”

This revised policy was only made public, however, months after Patterson’s statement to WRAL. Earlier versions of the policy document (from late May and August) do not include any language about “no-knock” warrants.

Last month, Emancipate NC asked Chief Patterson to participate in a deposition to answer questions about the RPD’s policy. In response, the RPD legal team quickly moved for a protective order to prevent the deposition. No decision has yet been made in favor of either party, but the move was one more step in an ongoing campaign of resistance from the RPD, which has tried to keep information about the raid (and its policies) under wraps.

Earlier this year, the RPD’s legal team successfully fought to prevent body camera footage of the raid from being publicly released. They also tried to get Emancipate NC removed from the case in November, a motion that was denied.

Regardless of RPD’s policy on no-knock warrants, further reforms around quick-knock warrants are needed, says Elizabeth Simpson.

“While Raleigh police may have ended the official policy of using no-knock warrants, they continue to enter private homes way too quickly after they knock,” Simpson says. “The purpose of the ‘knock and announce’ requirement is to give people an actual opportunity to realize what is happening and to voluntarily permit entry. By entering one or two seconds after the knock, Raleigh police officers are still creating a very risky situation where residents are caught by surprise.”

That element of surprise “needlessly risks the lives of both police and civilians, who may react out of fear and stress, rather than rationality,” Simpson adds. “Police departments that operate under best practices prioritize the sanctity of human life over the small chance someone could destroy evidence during a brief pause to permit voluntary entry.”

Read the full article on why this matters here →