New Jersey acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck on Tuesday issued a directive that restricts the use of “no-knock” warrants by police.
Citing “dire consequences” for the safety of both law enforcement officers and residents, Bruck said his directive (pdf) seeks to further regulate the “already-rare application” of no-knock warrants in New Jersey, and establish approval and reporting requirements for instances when they are used.
“I have determined that no-knock warrants present significant risks to public and officer safety, privacy, and community trust, and should be used only in rare and targeted circumstances,” Bruck said in his directive.
“No-knock raids” are where officers barge in without knocking because of fear of violence.
Bruck outlined four “broad actions” to regulate the use of no-knock warrants for both residents and commercial premises.
It states that the use of no-knock warrants is generally prohibited under the new rules, but that officers may request authorization only where knocking and announcing will “create a reasonable and particularized concern for officer safety or the safety of another person,” and if the no-knock warrant is carried out by a “trained tactical team.”
The directive also states that any warrant with a no-knock provision must be approved by the county prosecutor, director of the Division of Criminal Justice, or officers’ senior legal staff designee.
All no-knock warrants must undergo review by the approving County Prosecutor’s Office, the directive says, “including when appropriate a review of relevant body-worn camera footage created during the warrant execution.”
It also asks county prosecutors’ offices to track the number of no-knock warrants applied for and authorized by a judge in their jurisdictions.
The new policy limits the time frame during which no-knock warrants may be carried out—between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.
“Early morning execution generally promotes the safest outcomes for each actor involved,” the directive says.
Law enforcement officers should also use flash-bang devices sparingly, and only with permission and adequate safety precautions in place.
Steps must also be taken to identify the occupants of the target premises, including any children or other individuals with known vulnerabilities, it says.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in a statement described the measures as a “tremendous step forward for law enforcement,” NorthJersey.com reported.
“They will build public trust and better reflect the diversity of the communities they protect and serve, underscoring our administration’s commitment to transparency, racial equity, and justice in our policing practices,” Murphy, a Democrat, added.