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Little Rock police unveil no-knock warrant assessment program

by Clara Turnage, Youssef Rddad | June 12, 2019 at 10:35 a.m. | Updated June 12, 2019 at 4:24 p.m.
FILE — Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey speaks during a press conference at police headquarters in April 2019.

4:20 p.m.

The Little Rock Police Department announced three new policies Wednesday including a threat-assessment for no-knock warrants and more oversight of confidential informants.

At a press conference Wednesday, Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey said the criminal investigation division and other staff have been working for months to improve department policies concerning no-knock warrants and the use of confidential sources, two issues which garnered national attention last year after a series of opinion pieces in The Washington Post.

The department will now annually investigate its confidential sources and purge those informants who have not been used in the past year. Humphrey said as of Wednesday, the department has purged 59 informants because of disuse.

Investigators seeking no-knock warrants will now first complete a threat assessment that ranks the warrant’s subject by known violent offenses, drug or weapon possession and the fortification of the residence for which the warrant is being requested. A police sergeant and lieutenant must now approve each affidavit, a document submitted to judges stating the necessity of a warrant.

Humphrey said he will review each no-knock warrant that is approved after investigators execute the warrant.

In 2018, the Little Rock Police Department executed 95 narcotics-based warrants, of which 57 were no-knock warrants. This year, the department has approved 29 warrants, of which six granted no-knock entry.

10:35 a.m.

The Little Rock Police Department says it will announce on Wednesday a new process to assess threats for no-knock warrant raids.

The warrants, which require a judge's approval, allow police to enter homes and other private properties without first announcing that they’re law enforcement. They have come under scrutiny in Little Rock, including in a federal lawsuit challenging their legality that was dropped in April.

The complaint was centered on a 2017 no-knock raid that drew national attention when it was featured, along with videos from inside and outside the residence, in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.

Supporters of the no-knock warrants say the practice is needed, especially when police suspect a person may become violent or destroy evidence if alerted. Others say it can be dangerous for people inside.

Further details about Little Rock's new assessment program are set to be released at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Before he was selected as Little Rock's new police chief, Keith Humphrey said he saw room to change how and when the no-knock warrants are used.

He said during a public forum in March that he wants to approve every such raid and ask officers to point to why they’re needed

“If you can justify that you need a no-knock warrant, I'll sign off on it,” Humphrey said weeks before being named chief. “But if you say you want to do it just because or we've always done it that way, you're talking to the wrong guy ‘cause that's not going to happen."

The model he suggested is similar to Houston's policy.

Houston's police chief said in February his officers would no longer use the warrants without his permission after four officers were shot and two people were killed in a home raid.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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