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Little Rock Police Detail Changes To No-Knock Warrant Policy

Daniel Breen

The Little Rock Police Department gave an update on efforts to reform its controversial policy regarding no-knock warrants.

Officials, including Chief Keith Humphrey and Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., introduced a new "Threat Assessment" system used to determine which arrest warrants will be eligible for no-knock raids.

Speaking Wednesday to reporters at LRPD headquarters, Humphrey thanked his colleagues for their efforts.

"We heard the community, we understand the concerns. We understand that we can always do things better," Humphrey said. "We want to make sure that we answer every question that citizens may have, we want citizens to… rest assure our main focus is their safety."

As one of four finalists for the job leading the department, Humphrey had voiced his support for creating a threat matrix assessment for no-knock warrants. Humphrey had also supported providing officers with body cameras, for which Mayor Scott announced a request for proposals in March.

Under the threat assessment, detectives with the Special Investigations Division (SID) would be required to score suspects on numerous criteria before submitting an affidavit to a judge requesting a no-knock clause to be added to the warrant. A police sergeant and lieutenant must also sign off on the threat assessment, and the chief of police will review the assessment following the execution of the search warrant.

The assessment grades warrant subjects on a variety of issues, like past criminal convictions and gang affiliation. Each positive answer to a question results in a score of two or four, with four overall points needed to submit an affidavit for a no-knock warrant.

Some criteria, like owning any sort of firearm, are grounds for automatic no-knock warrants, though Little Rock Police SID Captain Ken Temple said a score of four will not automatically mean a no-knock raid.

Temple said new policies as well as help from federal law enforcement has caused a drop in no-knock warrants, with six being served since the beginning of the year compared to 57 in 2018

"We are trying to focus and get very strong cases on street-level dealers… so we're spending a lot of time and effort making sure the cases are very solid before we try to progress on them," Temple said.

The assessment also takes mental instability and military or police backgrounds into account, as well as assigning points for upstairs apartments, bars on windows and surveillance cameras on residences.

The practice of no-knock warrants and their use by Little Rock Police first came to light in an October 2018 opinion piece in the Washington Post outlining one man’s experience being served a no-knock warrant based on false information from a confidential informant. Since that story was published, numerous people have come forward with their accounts of being targeted by unlawful no-knock raids.

Humphrey said the shift in policy was not a direct response to national media attention.

"I don't want the community to think that it was because we were forced to do this. It was because we felt it was the best way to increase the community’s trust in us, and we know that there was always a better way of doing things," Humphrey said.

Humphrey said all confidential informants will be reviewed annually for their truthfulness and reliability, as well as instituting a more thorough vetting process for new informants.

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