KILLEEN, TX — The use of no-knock warrants has been under fire within the city of Killeen since 2019, when the execution of a no-knock warrant led to an injured officer and the death of James Scott Reed. Now, the decision whether to ban this practice is in the hands of the city council.
A no-knock warrant is exactly what it sounds like, or doesn't sound like. It’s a tactic officers use mostly in drug related cases or when law enforcement is trying to arrest a suspect who is known to be violent.
”It provides officers a little bit of the element of surprise so that they can enter without allowing someone time to perhaps get a weapon," explained Dr. Tammy Bracewell, professor of criminal justice at A&M-Central Texas.
Suspects could also destroy evidence that could help police build their case. That’s why no-knock warrants are typically used, according to researcher and former law enforcement officer, Dr. Bracewell.
She says grouping all no-knock warrants together isn't practical.
“We can’t lump all of those together because every single incident has a different set of circumstances surrounding it. It’s very hard, unless you’re looking at every single case individually, to make those types of assumptions,” said Dr. Bracewell.
Last year, Killeen Police Chief Charles Kimble announced the city would no longer be executing no-knock warrants surrounding drug-related offenses. It was a middle ground that would only allow no-knocks in certain cases and with approval from the chief himself.
“There is already more oversight for no-knock warrants than a regular search warrant, and by taking them away out right or outright banning no-knock warrants, you do take a tool away from law enforcement," Dr. Bracewell said
But an ordinance has surfaced in the city council that would end the practice all together in the City of Killeen. That ordinance is supported by Councilwoman Melissa Brown,
“For me, I think it’s all or nothing thing, and my preference is nothing," she said.
Brown says although there hasn’t been a no-knock issued in the city since last June, there is still a gray area, even if no-knocks are only executed in certain instances.
“We’re making an assumption that if the officers knock on the door, that suspect might be violent, but then again they might not. I firmly believe that there are ways to keep everyone safe while still getting to the objective,” Brown said.
The councilwoman believes everyone is entitled to due process, and no-knocks leaves the door open for both parties to be on the defensive. She says it endangers bystanders, the suspect, and police.
“Even when no one is injured, there still is that risk, and it’s still traumatizing to both officers and citizens alike,” Brown said.
Brown says during Tuesday night's council meeting, Chief Kimble said he was a bit hesitant about removing no-knocks all together, but he would adjust to any decision made by the council.