Maine moving to curtail ‘no knock’ warrants used by police

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Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 3:55 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Maine state legislators are one step closer to limiting the use of controversial “no-knock” warrants used by police.

The legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted unanimously in an all-remote work session on Wednesday to approve a bipartisan compromise bill that would limit the warrants to situations where police or people in surrounding areas might be at risk of death or bodily harm if police were to announce themselves.

The bill would require a judge to issue the warrant to verify those circumstances.

It also requires officers on an entry team to wear a police uniform and activate body-worn cameras if their department requires it.

Maine sheriffs and the State Police expressed support for the bill, including its definition of a regular warrant as a no-knock warrant, if police have reason not to wait 20-seconds after announcing themselves.

State Police Maj. Brian Scott explained to the committee what those “exigent circumstances” might involve.

Scott said, “We go to a residence, maybe knock and announce, but something comes to our attention that creates an emergency. It might be something like the rack of a shotgun, or we might hear someone acknowledge, ‘Oh, crap, the police are here. Grab your gun,’ or something that would necessitate an immediate entry.”

The bill is part of a nationwide review of no-knock warrants following the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by gunfire when Louisville police executed a warrant on her boyfriend last year.

In a telephone interview, Democratic Rep. Amy Roeder, who originally sought to ban the warrants called them “an incredibly flawed tool.”

She also noted prior public hearing testimony revealed the warrants are rarely used in Maine.

Roeder said, “We see them as being a growing problem in the country, and it was just a matter of time before they would be a problem in Maine.”

She forged a compromise with Republican Rep. Justin Fecteau, which committee members voted for 10-0, with three members absent.

The bill now goes to the full legislature, where it’s likely to pass given the committee’s unanimous support.

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