Why would legitimately heavily armed, on-duty police officers wearing uniform lack the decency to knock at the door of a suspect, introduce themselves as the police and then proceed to carry out a raid after flashing a search warrant?
In many states across the US the police hardly ever knock. They hide behind a policy known as “no-knock raids”, which they seem to apply mainly in the predominantly black communities.
The much-maligned policy thus undermines the rights of millions of Americans on the basis of the colour of their skin. When they search homes of African American suspects, they kick the doors wide-open and wake the sleeping occupants – often men, women and children – in the ungodly hours flashing torch lights and cocking their guns. Their actions can only be matched by those from horror movies. The list of the victims of the US police under the notorious no-knock raids is horrendous to say the least. It includes Breonna Taylor of Louisville in Kentucky who was killed under similar circumstances two years ago.
According to a Washington Post report in 2017, a New York City Police Department tactical unit shot and killed a 69-year-old Mario Sanabria after surprising him during a no-knock raid in his home. Speaking no English at all, Sanabria had grabbed a machete at the sound of people breaking into his home. He understood none of the police commands in English and he died a cruel death at the hands of the uncompromising police who were looking for Sanabria’s nephew.
The latest police victim is a 22-year-old Amir Locke of Minneapolis, who was shot multiple times last week by a trigger-happy police squad that sniffed out his life within nine seconds after kicking his door wide-open using brute force. Neither for the first time nor last, large crowds of people took to the streets to protest in downtown Minneapolis. Across the US, communities are expressing the same levels of outrage. They know too well that today it’s Locke, tomorrow it can be any one of them.
In the midst of all the scandalous skewed race relations, the US often projects itself as the leader of the free world, using an equally cantankerous foreign policy that leaves much to be desired. On the mounting heap of evidence against the often racist police, it is difficult to comprehend the often sold lie that the US is a doyen of democracy, freedom and equal rights for all. Washington seems quite good at lecturing others on what they themselves fail to do, which is to treat all people equally and with dignity.
The emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in recent history has cast the light on a plethora of gross human rights violations, particularly against African American population. Minneapolis is the same city where global outrage was sparked by the 2020 brutal killing of George Floyd when a white cop knelt on his neck for nine minutes whilst he pleaded in vain: “I can’t breathe!”
Jeff Storms, an appointed civil rights attorney for the Locke family, summed it all up when he told the Washington Post: “We have a city (Minneapolis) that just refuses to learn. We continue to be known for these colossal civil rights failures. And so now the question is, is the city going to hold itself accountable?”
Storms added: “Can we believe the city anymore when it says it’s going to learn from its own mistakes?”
To his credit, Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey has swiftly announced with immediate effect the suspension of the use of no-knock warrants. Temporarily, at least, police offices in the city may no longer enter anyone’s property, regardless of colour, without first announcing their presence.
According to Frey, the city has hired the services of experts, including Prof Peter Kraska, a professor of police studies at Eastern Kentucky University who assisted in redrafting state legislation for regulating no-knock raids in the wake of Taylor’s death. Kraska estimated that as of 2010, the number of no-knock raids across the US was no less than 60 000, a sharp rise from the recorded “a few thousand a year” in the 1980s. He calls no-knock warrants “high-risk and low-reward” practice.
In a widely publicised statement, Mayor Frey said: “To ensure the safety of both the public and officers until a new policy is crafted, I’m issuing a moratorium on both the request and execution of such warrants in Minneapolis.” He continued: “No matter what information comes to light; it won’t change the fact that Amir Locke’s life was cut short.” He also said that the body-camera footage from Locke’s killing “raises more questions than answers”.
Since Taylor’s killing in 2020 and the nationwide riots that followed, at least a dozen municipalities have passed laws banning or limiting the use of no-knock warrants. Across the US three states have outlawed the use of no-knock warrants. They are Florida, Oregon, and Virginia.
According to Barry Friedman, faculty director of the Policing Project at New York University’s law school, no-knock warrants are just part of a bigger problem. “The bigger problem is the extent that we use militarized raids to enter people’s residences,” he said.
And true! Where is the decency? What causes the fear to be just humane even as the cops carry out policing duties? No-knock warrants raise way too many questions than answers. It is such a great pity they take place in the so-called land of the free. After weeks of very public protest and choruses of condemnation by politicians, it will all die down. The boiling temperatures will subside. And the politicians will quietly return to their norm of maintaining “law and order”. Until the police’s abominable no-knock raid episode snatches another innocent life. It’s a brutal cycle that knows how to select colour very well.
No wonder President Joe Biden’s approval rate currently stands at a mere 20 percent in most polls. The Black communities had catapulted him to the Oval Office in the belief that a post-Donald Trump White House would usher in a better life for African-Americans, but to no avail. Just like being Black during apartheid in South Africa, or Palestinian under the current Jewish occupation, to live under no-knock practice is gross human rights violation. Period.