It’s ironic to blame another political party for a crime committed by an employee of your own political party. But that’s effectively what Nancy Pelosi did recently. Pelosi said that Republicans were “trying to get away with murder, actually, the murder of George Floyd.”
But as commentator Stephen Miller noted: “George Floyd was murdered in a city run by a Democrat mayor since 1973, whose police chief was appointed by a Democrat, in a state with two Democrat Senators, and hasn’t voted for a Republican President since Nixon.” So it was “completely insane” that Pelosi “can say something like this unchallenged” by the media.
Not a single member of the Minneapolis City Council is a Republican.
Pelosi said this in discussing the competing police-reform bills proposed by Congressional Republicans and Democrats, neither of which appears likely to pass in the current Congress. The Democrats are filibustering the Republican bill, and the Republican bill can’t pass the Democratic-controlled House.
(It is possible, however, that the Democrats’ bill may become law if the Democrats take control of the Senate and the presidency in this fall’s elections, as many analysts expect them to do. The Democrats’ bill has some odd provisions, such as one that would encourage police departments to have gender and racial quotas for police stops).
Even if Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on much, they should pass legislation that has some bipartisan support. A classic example is legislation restricting “no-knock” warrants, which led to the highly-publicized death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently introduced a bill to ban no-knock warrants, which have resulted in many deaths or disabling injuries. When police burst into a home without first knocking and presenting a warrant, residents often think a violent intruder is breaking into their home. As a result, they may get their gun or resist, resulting in them being shot and killed by the police. On average, there are about 8 to 10 cases per year where a completely innocent person is killed in such raids.
The Democrats should support his bill, because most Democrats also want to restrict no-knock warrants.
Paul’s bill, the “Justice for Breonna Taylor Act,” would prohibit federal law enforcement and local police that receive federal funding from entering homes without warning through a “no-knock” warrant. Such a warrant was obtained by the cops who shot Breonna Taylor to death in her home on March 13. Legal commentators say that warrant was illegal.
Police who entered Taylor’s home were reportedly investigating two men they believed to be selling drugs out of a house far from her house, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. They used a battering ram to break down her door and shot Taylor at least eight times after her boyfriend fired his gun at an officer in self-defense. No drugs were found in Taylor’s home.
“After talking with Breonna Taylor’s family, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s long past time to get rid of no-knock warrants. This bill will effectively end no-knock raids in the United States,” Paul said.
Democrats should get behind Paul’s bill. After all, a bill supported by most Democrats would similarly ban the use of no-knock warrants in drug cases.
The Supreme Court has said that no-knock warrants are permissible in a minority of cases, but not most. As it explained in Richards v. Wisconsin (1987):
In order to justify a “no-knock” entry, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile, or that it would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime by, for example, allowing the destruction of evidence.
In practice, however, judges often just rubberstamp requests for no-knock warrants, flouting the Fourth Amendment. So it makes sense for Congress to withhold federal funds from police departments that routinely use no-knock warrants.
Banning no-knock warrants would not place an undue burden on the police. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, “No-knock warrants are illegal in Oregon and Florida” — and have been for years — “yet law enforcement has had no issues performing necessary operations in either state.”