Berkeley’s Police Review Commission, or PRC, voted unanimously Wednesday to create a subcommittee to study policy concerning warrants.
The subcommittee will focus specifically on the wording of Lexipol Policy 606 regarding the use of no-knock warrants, according to PRC commissioner Ismail Ramsey. He added that this group would operate independently of the existing Lexipol subcommittee on the use of force to allow for more public and expert input.
Lexipol is a company that provides policy recommendations for local law enforcement, including the Berkeley Police Department.
“When I looked at the Lexipol policy, it didn’t have any discussion and I think this is an area that warrants expert testimony beyond just talking to the department,” Ramsey said at the meeting. “I am interested in hearing what they have to say.”
During the meeting, BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood said instituting a ban on no-knock search warrants for narcotic investigations would be a straightforward change for the department. He also pointed out that these types of warrants are not used in practice by BPD.
Greenwood added that no-knock arrest warrants are important, however, for officers dealing with “worst case scenarios” such as hostage situations. One possible alternative to a complete ban would be requiring authorization from the police chief and designating a specific team of highly trained officers, according to Greenwood.
“It has some oversight, a policy in place that reflects what we have had for decades,” Greenwood said at the meeting. “I understand there is a need for policy for the community to be reassured on what we can and cannot do, but we have been very clear in that we have not served no-knock warrants for 30 years.”
The issue of serving no-knock warrants has been discussed in Berkeley and around the nation following the death of Breonna Taylor, according to PRC commissioner George Perezvelez. The Justice for Breonna Taylor Act introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, in June would ban the service of no-knock warrants by law enforcement, Perezvelez added.
Along with efforts in the federal government, Perezvelez said members of the California state Senate were also looking into passing legislation to ban the use of no-knock warrants. Ramsey added that local legislation has had a significant impact on policies at the state level in the past.
“We’ve seen in the past that the scope of changes we make at the local level aren’t limited to the city of Berkeley,” said PRC commissioner Julie Leftwich at the meeting. “The local legislation trickled up to the state level and state policy was modeled after the local policy.”