Police And Politicians Are At Odds Over Whether Aurora’s No-Knock Warrant Ban Will Make City Safer

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite
An Aurora police cruiser outside the Town Center at Aurora mall on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019.

Aurora has banned no-knock warrants but politicians and police officers still disagree on whether the move will make community members and police safer.

No-knock warrants have been in the headlines after the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. Taylor was a Black emergency room technician who was shot and killed by Louisville police officers in March in her apartment. Police were executing a no-knock warrant.

A no-knock warrant is issued by a judge and allows law enforcement to enter a property without knocking, ringing a doorbell, or otherwise notifying the residents.

Taylor's death sparked nationwide protests and cities across the country to reconsider their laws on this kind of warrant.

Aurora is the first Colorado city to ban the policy, though other cities have considered doing the same, said to Aurora City Councilwoman Angela Lawson, who sponsored the bill. The measure passed a City Council vote 7-3 Monday night.

Sgt. Mark Sears, president of the Aurora Police Union said the ban puts people and officers in more danger.

"It allows the bad people of Aurora to have more rights and that's kind of what it seems like the people in Aurora, especially city council in Aurora, is focusing on," he said. "You're endangering citizens when you do these things, when you make these ridiculous ordinances."

No-knock warrants are one tool officers need to safely do their jobs and prevent crime, Sears added.

"It's criminals that want these laws," he said. "If you really want to have the safest society or the safest community, then let law enforcement do their job."

But activists have demanded such warrants be banned after the death of Taylor. Lawson, who sponsored the bill, said she wanted to prevent a tragedy like Taylor's from happening in Aurora.

"The no-knock policy poses a severe risk to officers as well as an occupant and any others that happen to be present in a particular dwelling so I think it's a dangerous tactic," Lawson said.

Judges have issued 10 no-knock warrants to be served in the city of Aurora since 2018, according to data from the Aurora Police Department. Most of the cases involved drugs or guns.

"No-knock warrants are only issued in situations where there is a clear risk to the SWAT officers' lives," an August letter from Aurora's deputy city manager to the city council states.

The element of surprise gives officers the ability to find drugs, for example, rather than them being disposed of, said Sears, with the police union. But Lawson argued nowadays, people are likely to defend their property and residents inside.

"That could be a potentially lethal situation for the occupants inside," she said. "It may not be death but it could produce some type of lethal response and I just think that's just a public safety issue in general."

She said officers can use other tactics, like additional surveillance, to prevent or stop crime, and thinks banning the policy will protect Aurora residents, police officers and restore trust in the community.