AUSTIN (KXAN) — State law enforcement officials say the passing of Proposition A, which includes banning no-knock warrants, will make things more dangerous for police and community members.
“It’s going to make Austinites less safe,” said Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Metropolitan Police Association (TMPA).
Julie Oliver with Ground Game Texas, the group that pushed to put this issue to a vote, believes the contrary.
“Safety in our communities, that’s what we want,” she said. “This really is a public safety issue and we are taking one of the most dangerous and intrusive tactics out of the toolboxes so we can keep this community safe.”
On Twitter, Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said he believes APD issues three no-knock warrants per year on average.
“No-knock warrants are extremely rare, so that number doesn’t surprise me,” said Lawrence.
The vote only applies to the Austin Police Department. Lawrence says a judge could still sign off on no-knock warrants for other agencies within city limits.
“If an officer from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) or a federal officer goes to federal court and gets a search warrant issued and says, ‘We need this to be a no-knock warrant and here are the reasons why,’ that magistrate can look at the details and say, ‘Yes I’ll give you a no-knock warrant,'” said Lawrence. “It’s going to make the law enforcement officers from other agencies that do issue these warrants inside the city of Austin less safe.”
The 2016 no-knock warrant issued at Tyler Harrell’s north Austin home is part of what drove Ground Game Texas to fight to get this topic on the ballot, according to Oliver.
“An 18-year-old found the family gun, shot back, did not – thankfully – did not kill a police officer but injured him,” Oliver said. Harrell was originally charged with attempted capital murder but was sentenced two years later to 13.5 years in prison for a lesser charge of aggravated assault.
KXAN has reached out to multiple law enforcement agencies asking for a numbers breakdown of no-knock warrants in Austin and we’ll update this story once we hear back.