Lexington police chief discusses his position on no-knock warrants

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 5:13 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - As Lexington City Council explores an ordinance that would ban the use of no-knock warrants, Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers is expressing his stance on the policing tactic.

In a sit down with WKYT’s Chad Hedrick, Chief Weathers says he believes there are misconceptions about what he calls “a tool” when dealing with violent offenders.

“I think people see it as us sneaking up to a door, crashing a door, and not letting anybody know we’re there,” said Chief Weathers. “That’s the total opposite. Before we even breach the door, make contact with the door, we’re letting people know that we are police.”

Weathers says in the last five years, LPD has only executed four no-knock search warrants. The Chief says the department intentionally scrutinizes every search warrant, whether it be a knock and announce, administrative, and especially a no-knock.

“My stance is simple,” Weathers said Friday. “It is a tool. I agree that it is a tool that should not be taken lightly, and it should not be used for everything. There should be very limited areas where you use it.”

For Lexington, the protocol is to only use them in instances where there is known extreme danger. An example would be when dealing with a suspect who has a history of violence, or has made threats of harming officers.

“If you don’t get in there quickly and the information you’ve received is that the person might fire some shots or something like that, those could go outside and that could endanger the public. Keeping it contained is our main goal.”

On Thursday, members of Lexington’s black faith community called for quicker action by the city to ban the no-knock tactic. They also criticized a clause in the ordinance requiring officers to wait a reasonable time before entering. They said police should wait 30 seconds. Chief Weathers believes a reasonable time is safer for everyone involved.

“I think a reasonable amount of time, that should be the standard,” said Weathers. “It should be up to the officers because once you get up to that door, situations change, and once you start adding specific times, you don’t give officers enough time to react to those situations.”

Weathers says he believes there is also a confusion between a no-knock warrant and exigent circumstances.

“Sometimes those are things that are happening right there that we know and confirm right then and there. For a no-knock search warrant, it’s based on imminent danger, and the exigency is that you have to get in there quickly.”

WKYT asked Weathers if the department did any training or reviewing of their protocols after Breonna Taylor’s death last year. He says they already had after an incident in 2015 when officers executed a no-knock at the wrong location.

As for if City Council ultimately passes the ordinance and bans no-knock warrants, Weathers says the department will follow the law.

“Sometimes when you make decisions, based on something that happened, sometimes you go to the extreme. Sometimes when you go to extremes, too far on one side, that makes you overreact or underreact. When you start overreacting or underreacting, that’s when people get hurt. I don’t like to look at extremes, I like to keep my options open. I like to have access to control has many variables as I can, and that’s what it’s all about, Safe, efficient, effective policing. It should be based on policies and procedures that are accepted nationally throughout policing.”

In response to the calls for quicker action, Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton released a statement saying,

“In deciding to impose a moratorium on no knock warrants back in June, I listened to citizens on all sides of this issue, and I listened to our police … and I continue listen to the ongoing debate. In Lexington, a no knock warrant is about life and death situations. These warrants are rare, and they can be misunderstood. Our chief has said there are times and situations where no knock warrants offer more protection for police and for citizens because they involve violent situations, and he has expressed his concerns about eliminating them completely. I understand how difficult this decision is for Councilmembers as they hear from many different voices in our community.”

The ordinance will come before the full council in June.

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