Virginia’s governor signs legislation banning no-knock warrants

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday signed police reform legislation that includes a ban on no-knock warrants, making the state the third in the country to outlaw no-knock, forcible-entry raids frequently used by law enforcement to serve narcotics search warrants.

The move comes as the March shooting death of Breonna Taylor at the hands of Louisville, Kentucky, police has prompted state and local governments across the nation to take steps to rein in the controversial police tactic.

“These reforms also reduce militarization of police equipment, standardize law enforcement training requirements and strengthens the process to de-certify officers, when needed,” Northam said.

“I want to sincerely thank our legislators and all advocates who have worked so hard to reform our criminal justice laws so we can keep Virginia safer and rebuild trust between our law enforcement and the communities that they serve.”

Oregon and Florida have also banned no-knock warrants.

Raids such as the one in which Taylor was killed occur tens of thousands of times each year in the United States during the execution of narcotics warrants where officers rely on dynamic entries to disorient and confuse occupants, according to experts.

Forced entry raids became commonplace during the 1980s war on drugs and the growing use of special weapons and tactics teams in narcotics operations.

The raids, particularly when carried out in the middle of the night, are dangerous to civilians and law enforcement alike. In the Taylor case, in fact, an officer was shot and wounded, prompting the subsequent barrage of police bullets that resulted in her death.

The raids are disproportionately carried out against people of color, experts say.

A 2014 American Civil Liberties Union report on police militarization found that 42 percent of SWAT team raids targeted Black people and 12 percent Hispanic.

The officers involved in the failed drug raid in March told investigators they repeatedly knocked and announced themselves before bursting through Taylor’s front door with a battering ram. They fired 32 rounds into the apartment after Taylor’s boyfriend shot at them first, wounding one officer.

Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III, told investigators the people pounding on the door in the middle of the night did not respond when the couple yelled, “Who is it?,” according to audio played before a grand jury. He believed intruders had broken down the door and he opened fire out of fear, according to Walker.