The Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called Monday for tougher rules regarding the use of "no-knock" search warrants by Atlanta police. With regular search warrants, police must knock and announce their presence before entering a home, but with "no-knock" warrants, police may just kick the door down and enter.
The call for tighter rules around "no-knock" warrants was only one of a number of recommendations for reforming Atlanta's police compiled by the group in the wake of the killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston by police in November. Johnston was shot and killed during a "no-knock" drug raid when she opened fire on undercover narcotics officers bursting through her door. Three officers were wounded. The officers involved claimed a confidential informant had bought cocaine at the house, but no cocaine was found, and another informant has told the media and federal investigators the narcs asked him to lie and say he had bought drugs at the house after the raid went sour.
The NAACP recommended that judges reserve "no-knock" warrants for extreme cases. The group also called for police to conduct surveillance of homes prior to executing a "no-knock" warrant.
"This is of utmost urgency," said Atlanta NAACP head the Rev. RL White Jr., speaking to reporters at the chapter's Atlanta headquarters. "The situation that happened last year was only the tip of the iceberg."
The group also called for police to launch a goodwill initiative in Atlanta low-income, high-crime neighborhoods and for the department to require officers to receive sensitivity training. The NAACP also recommended that a citizens' review board be created to review incidents like the Johnston killing. Such a board currently exists, but it is toothless and has not reviewed a case in five years.
"I commend the NAACP for their input and involvement on how the Atlanta Police Department conducts business," Chief Richard Pennington said in a statement. "Even though we are currently reviewing our internal policies and procedures, I do not oppose any measure that will strengthen our relationship with the community. I look forward to working together to reclaim the public's trust in our hard-working men and women."
The NAACP's recommendations will be delivered to the Atlanta city council, Mayor Shirley Franklin, and Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears, White said.