Cincinnati City Council to review new limits for no-knock warrants next week

Cincinnati City Council to review new limits for no-knock warrants next week
Cincinnati City Hall (Source: FOX19 NOW)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council will consider limiting police use of no-knock warrants next week.

Councilman Chris Seelbach’s motion was on the agenda at Wednesday’s meeting and referred per normal procedure for further review to the Law and Public Safety Committee.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, who chairs the committee, said it would be discussed at their next meeting, on Wednesday, Jan. 20.

The proposed changes, if passed, would ban police from performing no-knock search warrants in the city except in the event of an active-shooter, hostage situation, kidnapping, murder, or terrorism.

This would include any Cincinnati police officers participating in operations run by task forces and multi-agency units.

Seelbach’s motion initially emerged last year as one completely banning the practice after the March death of Breonna Taylor during a no-knock warrant executed by Louisville police that resulted in a shootout with her boyfriend.

Louisville has since banned the practice.

The use of no-knock warrants in Cincinnati already is rare and there are rigorous standards, Police Chief Eliot Isaac told Council last year.

He said he opposed banning no-knock warrants altogether but would support limiting them.

Seelbach’s motion specifically directs the city administration to change the procedures at Cincinnati Police Department to increase requirements for no-knock warrants “to ensure that CPD’s warrant-execution procedures will keep our communities and officers safe, protect more lives, and limit no-knock raids.”

Other highlights to the proposed changes would now require all Cincinnati police conducting them to:

  • Have and operate body cameras
  • Start the recording devices no more than five minutes before and leave them on at least 15 minutes after
  • Keep all recordings for at least seven years
  • Make recordings accessible for review by the Citizen’s Complaint Authority. City of Cincinnati, and council members.
  • Physically knock on an entry door to the premises “in a manner and duration that can be heard by the occupants” (at least 60 seconds)
  • Use force to enter the premises only after waiting if police have knocked and announced themselves for a reasonable amount of time for an occupant to open the door or there are “verifiable exigent circumstances”
  • “Verifiable exigent circumstances” is defined as an event occurring in real-time that can create serious bodily harm or death to an officer or an occupant of the property.
  • A verifiable exigent circumstance may be perceived through video footage, documentation, or witness statements. Examples of verifiable exigent circumstances could include: hearing a round being chambered in a gun, seeing through a window an occupant or hostage held by a firearm, etc

This part of the current policy is shown with a line through it, indicating it would be no longer applicable, under the current proposed changes:

“If, while waiting for the door to open, there is some sign the occupant is fleeing, fortifying their position, destroying evidence or contraband, or taking action that would jeopardize the safety of the officers, force open the door immediately.”

Next, the proposed changes will go to Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee for further review and discussion. The public and police union also can weigh in.

If then passed in a full City Council vote, the city administration would be required to review the policy with the city manager’s advisory group.

If city officials seek any changes or exceptions to the police in the future, they will be required to first explain the basis for those, get input from the City Manager’s Advisory Group, and then get Council approval.

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