War on Drugs

Good News from Atlanta


A bipartisan bill looking to limit no-knock raids in Georgia is gaining momentum :

A group of lawmakers wants to make it harder for police to use "no-knock" warrants in the wake of a shootout that left an elderly woman dead after plainclothes officers stormed her home unannounced in a search for drugs.

The measure would allow judges to grant the warrants only if officers can prove a "significant and imminent danger to human life."

The measure was prompted by the Nov. 21 shootout between Kathryn Johnston and three police officers during a no-knock search of her Atlanta home. When the officers entered without warning, police say that Johnston, 92, fired a handgun at them and that the officers returned fire, killing her. An autopsy concluded she was shot five or six times.

I hate to be overly negative, but it's worth noting here that the problem is more about forced-entry raids in general, not just "no-knock" raids specifically. Though the officers involved in the Johnston raid did have a no-knock warrant, they still claim that they knocked and announced themselves before entering (though just about anything these cops say at this point is suspect).

For the people on the receiving end of these raids, the difference between a "no-knock" and a "knock-and-announce" is often negligible. The announcement has in many parts of the country become a mere formality. If you're asleep in an upstairs bedroom and the raid comes at 3am, even a faithful execution of the knock-and-announce requirement by the police isn't going to do you much good. It's the violent, forced-entry invasion of a private citizen's home that's the problem.

The limiting language in the bill is spot-on. "Significant and imminent danger to human life" sounds just about right. But if they want to prevent more Kathryn Johnstons, the bill needs to cover all forced-entry raids, not just no-knocks.