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Minneapolis Mayor Frey Admits To Being Misleading On 'No-Knock' Policy Changes

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Outrage about Amir Locke's killing by police reached Minneapolis City Hall, where council members on Monday sought expert advice about "no-knock" warrant policies and questioned Mayor Jacob Frey about his plans to revise the rules.

The Minneapolis Police Department updated its policy in November, which said police must announce their presence once they enter the threshold of a residence. Mayor Jacob Frey's campaign touted this as a "ban," but Rachel Moran, a University of St. Thomas professor who studies police accountability, told city council members during an informational hearing in the government oversight committee that such a claim isn't true.

"I do want to make clear this was not a ban on no-knock warrants," Moran said. "It, in fact, did not affect the knock requirement at all."

Frey later answered questions, including about his new moratorium issued Friday that temporarily suspends requesting and executing no-knock warrants. Again, this isn't a total ban, Moran told the city council.

There's an exception for circumstances where this is an "imminent threat of harm" and the warrant is subsequently approved by the police chief.

Frey acknowledged, though, that he had been misleading on changes made last fall.

"Language became more casual, including my own, which did not reflect the necessary precision or nuance. And I own that," he said.

Frey said he will tap two leading experts who helped craft Louisville's local law following the killing of Breonna Taylor during a no-knock raid. The moratorium, he said, will stay in effect for "as long as it takes" until new policy is drafted.

"The overriding goal here that comes from any of these decisions is the preservation of life, period," Frey said.

Ben Crump, the attorney representing Locke's family, spoke as well, along with two of his partners.

Jeremiah Ellison, the committee chair, said in a text message to WCCO before the meeting, "They are subject matter experts in civil law, they have experience in the field, and they have experience with no-knock warrant cases. Their presence will be educational in nature."

Legal analyst Joe Tamburino says if he was counseling the city, he wouldn't have advised inviting potential litigants against the city.

"These are attorneys who have already sued the city of Minneapolis ... in the settlement in the [George] Floyd case for $27 million, so they've obviously been very successful at this," Tamburino said.

At one point, Ellison did cut one of the lawyers off on the advice of the city's attorneys.

Between 2010 and 2016, at least 94 people were killed during no-knock raids -- 13 of them were police officers, Moran testified, highlighting how such warrants "carry a heightened degree of danger."

Sarah Murtada, a third-year law student at St. Thomas who has studied no-knock warrants, noted that there are various cities and states throughout the country who have banned the practice. She said St. Paul hasn't implemented restrictions but hasn't executed such a warrant since 2016. (Minneapolis asked St. Paul to get the no-knock warrant that ended with Locke's killing, sources told WCCO.)

Murtada pointed to the homicide clearance rates, or the percentage of homicides that are solved, in both Minneapolis and St. Paul: 37% and 91% respectively, she said. She added that neither city has had an officer killed by violence in 17 years.

"We're looking at these two cities, one that uses no knock warrants one that doesn't, and we're not seeing any difference in officer's safety and we're also not seeing that no-knock warrants create a higher clearance rate or solve more crimes," Murtada said.

Jeremiah Ellison, who is chair of the council's policy and government oversight committee, said he and his colleagues don't have the authority to change what the police department does -- that power rests with the mayor.

Frey, though, was receptive for his request that the council hold public hearing on any proposals.

"We are yet again confronting the pain of another police killing," said Ellison at the beginning of the meeting. "Much debate has been had about how we fix our public safety system, about how we keep each other safe in Minneapolis, and despite that debate—despite how tumultuous that debate has been—this keeps happening."

On Tuesday, DFL lawmakers in the state legislature are expected to unveil legislation that would ban the use of the no-knock warrants in Minnesota. Last year, lawmakers added restrictions to the warrants.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden is seeking to expand the existing ban on federal agents using no-knock warrants and chokeholds in the aftermath of Locke's killing.

"Let me first say we mourn the tragic death of Amir Locke, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family," Psaki said. "The President is committed to ensuring fair, impartial and effective policing and keeping our communities safe. These goals go hand in hand in his view with what we can achieve by building trust between the police and the communities they serve."

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