Colorado senate weighs limiting no-knock warrants

Heather Willard

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / April 21, 2023

(Douglas County, Colo.) The Colorado Senate will consider a bill limiting no-knock warrants after implementing a few proposed amendments raised after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it on April 12.

This bill stems from 2021 legislation establishing a 12-member task force to review No-Knock Warrants and Forced Entry and to provide recommendations and findings to the Attorney General’s Office. One member of the task force is previous Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, serving as a representative of the Colorado county sheriff’s association.

Currently, the bill would limit knock-and-announce and no-knock warrants to being served between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. unless a judge expressly authorizes execution outside of this time frame for good cause.

Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown testified that his agency has participated in over 164 “tactical incidents,” including 100 search warrants and zero no-knock warrants during the past year.

“The last thing we look at is preservation of evidence,” he said. “We have the ability to slow things down and preserve life. No-knock warrants no longer pass the tactical science test.”

At the time of publishing, search warrant records requested by NewsBreak have not yet been released. However, Douglas County Sheriff Darren Weekly said his agency has not used any no-knock warrants in the past year.

Jeremiah Ntepp, a civil law and policy analyst with the Denver NAACP, said the NAACP strongly supports limiting no-knock warrants. Many of the bill’s supporters, including prime sponsor Sen. Rhonda Fields (D-28), noted Breonna Taylor's March 2020 death in Louisville, Kentucky. According to investigators, Taylor was asleep in her apartment when police officers forced their way inside and shot her.

Taylor’s relatives and activists continue to say the shooting is an example of how Black or people of color are disproportionately affected by police violence. According to the 2022 Police Violence Report issued by Mapping Police Violence, the U.S. population is 58% white and 12% Black. Still of all individuals killed by police in the U.S. in 2022, 26% are Black while 43% are white. The death rate for Black victims increases when looking at unarmed victims: 33% of those killed are Black, according to the data.

“No knock warrants are bad for both law enforcement and civilians, and the most effective way at preventing more tragic killings at the hands of police executing no-knock or quick warrants is to ban them completely,” Ntepp said.

Sharron Pettiford, Denver NAACP second vice chair, spoke about how no-knock warrants have traumatically affected her life, among many others.

“We are in full support of this (bill),” she said. “I personally have, in another state, have had a situation like this on a no-knock warrant where a family friend was killed. She was 75 years old…they went in on a weed warrant…she was startled, and they said they thought she was pulling for something. She was pulling for her inhaler.”

The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and the County Sheriff’s of Colorado are working with the bill’s prime sponsors, Fields (D-28), Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-34), Rep. Elisabeth Epps (D-6) and Rep. Mike Weissman (D-36), to introduce a number of amendments to the bill.

According to the Public Safety Colorado coalition, the 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. provision “creates potential tactical disadvantages for law enforcement and could increase danger levels for the general public.” The group argued in its weekly newsletter that the timing of serving a warrant is critical for tactical planning.

To address these concerns, CACP and CSOC will be working to change the bill to include:

  • Adding “credible threat of death or serious bodily injury” as a probable cause for a no-knock warrant to be consistent with the state statute.
  • Extending the hours of warrant execution without having to request the authorization of a judge.
  • Changing the standard for an unannounced entry to “an imminent risk to the life or safety” of an individual in a dwelling.

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

Broomfield, CO

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