Public Safety

Birmingham Police Revise Policies to Disallow No-Knock Warrants

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. Feb. 11, 2020. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Birmingham police will no longer use no-knock warrants such as the one that led to the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville last year.

Mayor Randall L. Woodfin, Police Chief Patrick Smith and Thomas Beavers, senior pastor of The Star Church, announced that and several other revisions to police policies and procedures during an event Tuesday. The revisions are part of an ongoing review of police procedures begun because of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Changes to the BPD’s search warrant application and service policy include language stating that the department does not authorize no-knock search warrants, according to a statement released by Woodfin’s office. With a no-knock warrant, police may enter a home or other location without announcing themselves first.

The changes were designed to centralize search warrants and to create a process to ensure those who secure the warrant provide the information needed by those who serve the warrant, according to the statement. The new policy also requires a risk assessment before a warrant can be served. It disallows devices such as “flash bangs” unless the risk assessment specifies their use or extreme circumstances call for their use. And it calls for a debriefing report from personnel involved within 48 hours of a warrant being served.

“This new process protects citizens and it protects police,” Woodfin said in the statement.

Smith said: “This has been an ongoing evolution of updating policy and procedure. We are going to work to reevaluate all of our policy to make sure we are implementing best practices in law enforcement while keeping the community safe and our officers safe.”

Beavers, who is part of a group of faith leaders who have met regularly with Smith about policing policies, praised the announcement.

“I have had the opportunity with various churches from throughout Birmingham to have a series of meetings with the police chief over the last six or seven months concerning police reform,” Beavers said. “We understand the power and historical capital we have in Birmingham in order to bring change especially in police reform.”