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Mayor Brown says no-knock police warrants will be 'rare' for narcotics possession

Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (at podium) announce the latest police reform Thursday.

Buffalo Police are doing away with one of the most controversial elements of the war on drugs: no-knock warrants. That is the kind of police warrant where officers don't have to announce they are there and why. Instead, they just kick down the door and head in.

Mayor Byron Brown said those warrants will be "rare," particularly if the crime on the warrant is for drugs possession. This is the latest phase of the mayor's police reform changes.

"Whatever the number was last year, this year it will be rare," Brown said. "Going forward, it will be rare. So whatever that number was in the past, it will never be that same number again, now and into the future."

Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the department has changed its process to obtain a warrant.

"Any search warrant request going to a judge has now further increased layers of authorization to review the entire search warrant packet," he said. "It will then be determined whether it meets the rare criteria for a no-knock. Then that request would to be made to the judge. Only a judge can issue a no-knock warrant, based on the application."

A no-knock warrant was the central element in the March death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. She was killed in a police shootout when her companion, who claimed he had no idea the people with guns were police executing a no-knock search warrant, pulled out his own weapon and fired and police shot back.

"When too much latitude is granted to enter a person's residence, unannounced and without sufficient cause, while there are still instances when police officers do need that ability, it should not be for those instances where narcotics possession is the only suspected crime," Brown said.

Brown said he is also creating the Public Protection Detail, headed by Deputy Police Commissioner for Administration Barbara Lark, to work with each police district chief and civilian city officials to ensure rights when protests are called, using the department's current community policing networks.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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