In the wake of the November drug raid that left 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston dead, "Atlanta police have virtually stopped seeking search warrants for drugs," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. In the six months since police killed Johnston, who grabbed a gun to defend herself against what she (correctly) thought was a criminal invasion, 19 drug warrants have been issued, compared to 125 in the six months preceding the raid. The number of "no knock" warrants dropped from 25 to zero during the same period. Two narcotics officers who lied to obtain the Johnston warrant pleaded guilty to civil rights violations and manslaughter, and others were demoted or suspended. While their replacements are being trained, Police Chief Richard Pennington has instructed officers to seek warrants "only in the biggest, most critical cases." Police continue to make drug arrests in response to complaints they receive or offenses they witness.
Pennington calls the dramatic drop in warrants a temporary lull. "Once the new narcotics team is put on the street, we are going to go right back into these areas that have a large concentration of drug activity," he said. "We are going to work with the community. But we are going to make sure they do everything by the book." With the FBI continuing to investigate search warrant practices in Atlanta, critics hope the police will continue to worry about the consequences of lying or otherwise cutting corners. "Now that they are being watched more closely and have to follow the law, they don't get many warrants," one defense attorney told the Journal-Constitution. "In the past, they basically had the ability to fabricate the information and get a warrant for it."
[via The Drug War Chronicle]