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Bill Limiting No-Knock Warrants Moves Forward In Annapolis

Rachel Baye

A bill limiting the use of no-knock warrants and allowing for the public disclosure of misconduct complaints against police officers is closer to becoming law after it passed out of the House of Delegates Tuesday.

The bill says a no-knock warrant — one that does not require a police officer to announce or identify him or herself before entering a property — may only be used if “the life or safety of the executing officer or another person may be endangered” by the use of a standard warrant.

It also restricts police to only serving no-knock warrants between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“The timeframe during the day is there to make sure that if we're going to do a no-knock warrant, and somebody is coming into the house completely unannounced, that there's no question that, yes, they're less likely to be asleep, they're more likely to see what's going on, and they would see police officers coming into their house,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore City Democrat. “It would be less likely that people would be shooting at each other.”

The bill also says misconduct complaints against officers are not personnel records, meaning they can be disclosed under the Maryland Public Information Act.

During nearly two hours of debate on Tuesday, Republicans attempted to add 10 amendments that would either loosen the bill’s restrictions on no-knock warrants or prevent certain police records from disclosure. All 10 amendments were voted down.

The original bill, sponsored by Sen. Jill Carter, a Baltimore City Democrat, was more narrowly focused on the public records issue. The House Judiciary Committee added amendments that effectively combined Carter’s bill with another pertaining to warrants. The Senate has to approve those amendments before sending it to the governor. If the Senate does not sign off, representatives of both chambers will meet in a conference committee to negotiate a compromise.

On Tuesday, the Senate agreed to a conference committee to negotiate with House members over a bill altering police discipline procedures.

The bill was originally sponsored by House Speaker Adrienne Jones and dealt with a wide range of police reform issues, including body cameras, the use of lethal force and warrants. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee stripped most of that from the bill, narrowing the focus to a process that replaces the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, before the full Senate passed it last week.

Meanwhile, two other bills limit police officers’ use of lethal force, expand the use of body cameras, and create a unit in the Attorney General’s Office to investigate deaths by police officers. The House amended the bills before passing them on Friday and Monday, and the Senate needs to approve the amendments before sending the bills to Gov. Larry Hogan.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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