Dear Sen. Cannizzaro,

The R Street Institute is writing to support Senate Bill 50, which would limit judges from issuing no-knock warrants except in some limited circumstances. R Street is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank with a western office in Sacramento. We promote pragmatic free-market solutions to policy problems. One of our core issues is criminal justice reform.

Heavily armed SWAT officers conduct thousands of no-knock raids throughout the United States each year, mostly for drug offenses. In fact, the nation’s drug war has escalated the number of times that officers use this approach. In the 1980s, police executed an average of 3,000 no-knock raids a year. That number soared to 40,000 a year in the 1990s and now tops 60,000 annual raids, according to research from Eastern Kentucky University.

The results often are tragic. In 2019, the city of Detroit agreed to a $8.25 million settlement after police killed a 7-year-old girl during a raid at the wrong apartment. In 2003, the New York police commissioner estimated that 10 percent of that city’s no-knock raids took place at the wrong household. These raids not only endanger the public, but endanger officers given that residents are caught off guard—and often suspect they are victims of a home invasion.

Between 2010 and 2016, 81 civilians and 13 law-enforcement officers died in forced-entry warrant searches. A New York Times investigation found that officer fatalities rose by 10 percent when the forced entry involved a no-knock warrant. As a result, 60 percent of Americans believe that no-knock warrants are dangerous for everyone involved, according to a recent Data for Progress survey. Three states already ban no-knock warrants.

Current law gives judges broad latitude in approving such a warrant. Senate Bill 50 would prohibit such warrants unless law enforcement can show that it is necessary to ensure a person’s safety or to prevent the destruction of evidence. We find that to be a modest and reasonable approach that can protect civil liberties and the lives of the public and police officers.

We urge a yes vote.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Steven Greenhut
Western Region Director
R Street Institute
Sacramento, Calif.
(909) 260-9836