Arizona panel to study how courts issue no-knock warrants

Arizona panel to study how courts issue no-knock warrants
Police lights (Source: Hawaii News Now/file)

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona’s court system is going to look into how so-called no-knock search warrants are authorized by judges for use by law enforcement agencies and whether there are adequate safeguards in place.

An administrative order issued Wednesday by Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel creates a 19-member task force of judges, attorneys, law enforcement officials, and others.

Brutinel’s order said the use of such warrants that allow officers to enter a location without first announcing themselves can create dangerous situations for officers and citizens.

Few such warrants are issued in Arizona, but the public’s trust in the justice system is at stake if even one warrant “goes badly,” Brutinel said.

Although the order didn’t mention the 2020 death of Breonna Taylor, no-knock warrants have drawn scrutiny nationally since the Louisville, Kentucky, woman was fatally shot when Louisville police broke down her door in the middle of the night.

Police had a no-knock warrant to enter Taylor’s apartment but said they knocked and announced their presence before entering. Some witnesses disputed that statement.

Brutinel’s order noted that promoting public trust and confidence in Arizona’s justice system is a goal in the judicial branch’s strategic agenda.

“The examination of when a judge should authorize such a warrant and what safeguards should be in place before such a warrant is issued is timely. It is also appropriate for the judiciary to examine the procedures followed by judicial officers for issuing these warrants, the training needed, and whether any changes to existing statutes and rules are warranted,” Brutinel’s order stated.

The task force will study whether judges are adequately trained about issuing warrants. Brutinel’s order said the task force could propose changes to court rules or state laws, including new or modified criteria or standards for the warrants.

Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick will head the 19-member task force, which is to make its recommendations by Oct. 21.

Other members include Mesa Police Chief Ken Cost, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Darrell Hill, Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer, defense attorney Armando Nava and Arizona State University criminology Professor Kevin Robinson, a retired Phoenix assistant police chief.

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