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Birmingham bans no-knock search warrants

Mayor Randall Woodfin said the changes were to prevent a death like that of Breonna Taylor’s from happening in Birmingham.
Credit: City of Birmingham
Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin speaks at a public safety news conference in December 2020.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala — Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Tuesday announced new regulations that ban the city’s police department from authorizing no-knock search warrants.

Woodfin said the change was born from the work of the city’s public safety task force, started last year in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and Breonna Taylor, shot to death in her home by police in Kentucky who had a no-knock search warrant. 

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“I want everybody to know we are still committed to taking the appropriate next steps to avoid a tragedy like the Breonna Taylor case from taking place in Birmingham,” Woodfin said. 

Woodfin said the new regulations also state that “all reasonable efforts will be made to knock and announce intentions before actually entering a property,” that flash bangs can’t be used by police unless a newly required risk assessment, which must be used to obtain a warrant, calls for their use.

Woodfin explained that those deaths spurred a national reckoning about policing, social justice and how police interact with citizens. Woodfin said the question is, can something like Taylor’s death happen in Birmingham? 

“And if the answer is even remotely or slightly possible yes, then we should look at our policies and procedures and change them,” Woodfin said. 

Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith said during the press conference that the city hasn’t seen the same sorts of problems that other cities have seen, but that they are addressing it on the front end. 

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“This has been the ongoing evolution of our process in terms of updating policy and procedure within the Birmingham Police Department,” Smith said, adding that some of the changes were simply to place into regulations procedures that the city’s police were already practicing. 

“We evaluate everything that we do to make sure that we are implementing best practices in law enforcement, and keeping the community safe, while making sure that our officers are safe in the deliverance of search warrants,” Smith said.

This story originally appeared in the Alabama Political Reporter.

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