Pittsburgh voters to determine important policing policy, critics concerned for public’s safety

PITTSBURGH — Across the country, a controversial topic is being discussed in many communities, no-knock warrants.

In less than two weeks, Pittsburgh voters will choose if they should be banned within city limits.

“We want this to be a permanent ban,” said Tim Stevens, President of the Black Political Empowerment Project.

Stevens tells Channel 11 this issue and vote is a matter of life and death.

He believes from the early morning hours to late at night, police officers should not have to break down doors unannounced.

“I think what happened with Breonna Taylor made all of us very aware of the possibilities of tragedies that can happen from a no-knock,” said Stevens.

In Pennsylvania, according to the Attorney General’s office:

The Office of the Attorney General does not execute no-knock warrants.

The law governing execution of search warrants provides only a limited exception for exigent circumstances…

- Where occupants remain silent after repeated knocking and announcing;

- Where police are virtually certain that occupants of premises already know their purpose;

- Where police have reason to believe that an announcement prior to entry would imperil their safety;

- Where police have reason to believe that evidence is about to be destroyed.

Brandi Fisher with the Alliance for Police Accountability fought for this ban to be on the ballot.

Fisher wants voters to choose how they want officers to act in their community.

“It’s just really not a safe practice for anyone. It would probably scare the life out of me if I’m in my bed, sleeping and someone busts my door down,” said Fisher.

Pittsburgh Public Safety tells Channel 11, they have a policy in place that prohibits no-knock warrants; but Fisher believes that is not always the case.

“We know it happens even though Pittsburgh Police say that they don’t do it. It does happen often, especially when they’re serving warrants and apprehending or looking for someone,” said Fisher.

Pittsburgh Police tell Channel 11 they are not aware of any officers who have violated the department’s no knock ban.

“Pittsburgh Police adhere to knock and announce procedures for warrant service, as governed by state law. That is to say they do not serve no knock warrants.”

“I think it’s a silly referendum,” said Sam DeMarco, Allegheny County Council Member.

The referendum mandates officers knock, announce who they are; and wait 15 seconds before entering.

“What if it’s a domestic violence situation - are you waiting to give that person that opportunity to harm or possibly kill?”

DeMarco says that 15 seconds could give suspects time to grab a weapon or get rid of evidence.

If the referendum is passed on May 18, no-knock warrants would be banned immediately.