The Little Rock Police Department announced Wednesday it is overhauling policies for obtaining no-knock warrants in drug raids, eight months after a man alleged officers blasted down his door and raided his apartment without probable cause.
Police Chief Keith Humphrey said at a news conference that the department will now use more detailed information when determining whether a no-knock warrant is reasonable. Officers are not required to announce themselves when serving a no-knock warrant.
Humphrey also said the department will implement other policies, such as thoroughly vetting cooperating individuals and more carefully defining how narcotics and SWAT teams interact, all of which are aimed at improving community policing and repairing a damaged image.
In October, Roderick Talley said he was suing the department and the city, alleging the police lied to obtain a no-knock warrant and used similar boiler-plate language on dozens of other warrants. Talley showed video footage from outside of his home which he said proved police lied when they claimed on an affidavit that they witnessed a confidential informant buying cocaine from Talley. Footage showed the informant ringing Talley’s doorbell and leaving minutes later — after no one answered the door. Talley said he was at work when the informant approached.
After police obtained the warrant, indoor footage provided by Talley showed officers blew open his door and raided his apartment. The search warrant inventory shows police found a “green leafy substance,” scales, baggies and “paperwork,” but no cocaine.
Talley’s lawyer, Mike Laux, said the suit has been withdrawn and will be filed again later, possibly with more complainants .
Humphrey said the new policies were enacted from a desire to improve best practices.
“I don’t want the community to think that it was because we were forced to do this,” Humphrey said. “It was because we felt it was the best way to increase the community’s trust in us and we know that there’s always a better way of doing things.”
A graph provided by the department showed all narcotic warrants have dropped precipitously since last year, a decline Humphrey attributed to both federal agents conducting investigations and city investigations being more targeted and focused.
In 2018, the department served 95 narcotics warrants, 57 of which were no-knock. This year, through Tuesday, only 29 warrants were served, six of which were no-knock.
Beginning Wednesday, an officer who files an affidavit must now fill out a “threat assessment” matrix, which asks questions like “Is the suspect on parole?” or “Is the suspect currently/historically associated with an organization which is known or suspected of violent criminal activity?”
Mayor Frank Scott, who attended the news conference, called the threat assessment “an extra step of accountability.”
Answers to those questions, as well as other intelligence such as whether children are present, will guide officers in determining if a no-knock warrant is appropriate. Supervisors must now also sign off on no-knock requests, and Humphrey said he will review all affidavits and threat assessments after the warrants are served.
The department’s use of cooperating individuals was also reformed, changes which were implemented late last year. Previously, informants were not regularly investigated. Now, they’ll be investigated annually, at a minimum, and individuals who are inactive for a year will be purged from the department’s approved list. The department said 59 individuals have been purged so far this year.
Laux, Talley’s attorney, said he was pleased with the department’s reforms, calling them “gratifying.” But he also said they don’t solve past issues, including instances in which officers lied on affidavits.
“Going forward, I think it’s going to save lives, I think it’s going to save property, I think it’s going to result in less litigation,” he said. “But what about the stuff in the rearview mirror?”
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