Virginia became the third state in the country to ban the controversial no-knock warrants. The move came this Wednesday when Governor Ralph Northam signed police reform legislation that includes a ban on no-knock raids. The raids are used frequently by the police to make drug busts.
The move came after months of protests that had engulfed the Nation following the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor back in March. Taylor, a 26 year old Black woman, was with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker at her Louisville, Kentucky home when the raid happened. The incident also took the life of a police officer as Walker opened fire first fearing an intruder.
The incident happened because the Police executed a no-knock warrant that created confusion. The Police claim that they announced themselves and knocked for a minute before breaking inside while Kenneth Walker says he did not hear the police identify themselves despite asking several times. Prohibition of no-knock warrants is believed to help both the law enforcement and the residents.
Virginia started deliberations over the move in early September when the Virginia Senate passed legislation to enact several police reforms. The bill passed along a party-line vote also included banning chokeholds and higher training standards for police.
Virginia’s move will also require law enforcement officers to get permission from a judge to conduct a warrant at night. Governor Ralph Northam also approved other legislations including limits on the use of neck restraints and reducing the use of military equipment.
“Too many families, in Virginia and across our nation, live in fear of being hurt or killed by police,” said Governor Northam in a press release on Wednesday. “These new laws represent a tremendous step forward in rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
Virginia joins two states, Florida and Oregon, and 13 local governments or police departments that have banned the warrants or restricted their use in response to the killing of Breonna Taylor.
Lawmakers in at least ten states have now introduced or pre-filed legislation to ban or restrict the no-knock warrants.
The new reforms generally gained support however there was some criticism from criminal justice experts. Few experts were of the opinion that the warrants are useful in dangerous situations and drug smugglers may use the loopholes in the new legislation. The law will go into effect on March 1, according to Alena Yarmowsky, a spokesperson for Northam.
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