Bill to ban Pittsburgh Police from using no-knock warrants introduced in city council | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Bill to ban Pittsburgh Police from using no-knock warrants introduced in city council

On Jan. 19, a bill was introduced into Pittsburgh City Council that seeks to ban Pittsburgh Police officers from using “no-knock” warrants. The ban is also called Breonna’s Law, in reference to Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot five times and killed after Louisville, Ky. police entered her apartment on a no-knock warrant.

Pittsburgh City Councilor  Ricky Burgess (D-Point Breeze) introduced the ordinance and tweeted that he was proud to be a sponsor of the bill. A total of five councilors have sponsored the bill, and Burgess is joined in sponsoring the no-knock warrant ban by city councilors Bobby Wilson (D-North Side), Daniel Lavelle (D-Hill District), Erika Strassburger (D-Shadyside), and Bruce Kraus (D-South Side). Pittsburgh City Council is a nine-member body.

If the legislation is passed and implemented, all Pittsburgh Police officers “shall physically knock and announce the presence of police before forcibly entering and shall wait a minimum of 15 seconds to allow the occupants of the residence to respond and open the door,” according to the text of the ordinance.
The bill would also require Pittsburgh Police officers executing warrants to wear and keep on body cameras and record video during the warrant-issue period, and for at least five minutes after executing the warrant. Officers would also be required to be in uniform while executing warrants or “otherwise be wearing clothing that makes the law enforcement officer clearly and immediately identifiable as a law enforcement officer.”

Officers who fail to comply with the no-knock warrant ban will be "subject to discipline as provided by Bureau policies and regulation." A no-knock warrant ban bill introduced in Allegheny County Council in June 2020 would bar county police and sheriffs from using no-knock warrants, and failure to do so would result in a fine. That bill has yet to be voted on by the full Allegheny County Council.

The Alliance for Police Accountability is currently in the process of gathering signatures to get a ballot initiative for the May Primary Election that would ban no-knock warrants in the city of Pittsburgh. APA says Pittsburgh has consequences of using no known warrants, including settlements for unannounced raids. In 2014, the city of Pittsburgh paid $107,500 to a Carrick family after the family filed a lawsuit over alleged abusive behavior during an announced raid of the family’s home.

“In the past six years, multiple settlements costing hundreds of thousands of dollars have been reached between the city and victims of such police raids,” reads a statement on APA’s website. “This is unacceptable; while the practice has been supposedly discontinued temporarily, we must prohibit it altogether through an amendment to the city charter.”

Wilson acknowledged the ballot-initiative effort, but tweeted that he feels strongly that the city council “should ban it outright and leave nothing to chance.”

“I'm proud to do my part to pass this into law, common sense legislation that results in a safer society,” said Wilson in a tweet.

State Rep. Emily Kinkead (D-North Side) supports the city's efforts and said in a tweet that "no-knock warrants are drastically overused and the danger they pose to citizens greatly outweighs the usefulness." Kinkead added that she supports adopting a similar statewide no-knock warrant ban.

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