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Some police departments making changes to no-knock warrant policy

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Just as the Illinois sheriff’s deputy was killed Thursday serving a search warrant, so was Milwaukee police officer Matthew Rittner last month.

Rittner was shot while serving a no-knock warrant which is exactly what it sounds like – officers force entry into a home and then announce themselves.

It’s a tactic often used in drug-related crimes for the element of surprise. It’s also not to be taken lightly.

Officers must demonstrate to the judge granting the warrant why the tactic is necessary.

“There’s so many unknowns,” said retired police trainer Bob Willis. “There may be weapons absolutely available to someone. If you get in there and don’t act quick enough, it becomes very dangerous.”

Last year, Milwaukee officer Michael Michalski was also shot and killed while serving a warrant.

In Houston, four officers were shot and two civilians were killed during a no-knock raid in January.

The police chief there has since decided to make a change.

“I’m 99.9 percent sure that we won’t be using them,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said. “I don’t see the value in them.”

Acevedo says officers forcing their way into homes is too dangerous, and only he will be able to give permission for it.

Willis says he has no problem with that because it doesn’t eliminate no-knock warrants completely.

“It is a tactic that should be used with discretion, and if there are other ways of accomplishing your goal they might be considered,” Willis said. “At a certain point in time after everything else is exhausted the only way to deal with that issue is surprise.”

Our messages to the Milwaukee Police and Fire Commission about whether it would ever consider making a similar policy change to Houston were not returned.

Milwaukee Police Department sent us their current standard operating procedure, but the sections on executing search warrants were largely redacted.

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