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Austin police chief says he'll restrict officer use of no-knock warrants after voters pass Prop A

An Austin Police patch on the shoulder of an officer
Michael Minasi
/
KUT
Voters on Saturday overwhelmingly passed a measure that bans the police use of no-knock warrants in Austin.

Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said he will follow the “will” of voters and ban his officers from using no-knock warrants.

“I think the will of the voters has kind of spoken on this and how, as a community, they feel the police department should be handling this,” he told KUT. “My plan is to implement what the city ordinance says into policy and to fully restrict their use.”

Chacon said he thinks he would still have the ability to petition the city’s law department to use a no-knock warrant, but he couldn’t anticipate a case where he would.

“I and others realize the danger that there is in [using no-knock warrants],” Chacon said.

Police who have a no-knock warrant do not need to announce their presence before entering a property to search it. The use of these kinds of warrants gained national attention in 2020 when police shot and killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., after entering her house while she was sleeping.

Proposition A, which passed with overwhelming support last weekend, requires Austin police officers to announce their presence and wait 15 seconds before entering a building. Eighty-five percent of voters supported the measure, which also codified an already existing police policy that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

A spokesperson for the city said the proposition will become city law once council members canvas the election results on May 17.

The head of Austin’s police union told KUT a day after the vote that because state law dictates the use of search warrants, he believed the department was still entitled to use no-knock warrants.

"To me [Prop A passing] really doesn't mean anything," Ken Casaday told KUT on Sunday. While the union did not spend any money to oppose Prop A, Casaday has publicly touted the necessity of no-knock warrants in especially dangerous situations.

"If we need to do a [no-knock] search warrant because we have an Austin bomber on the loose, we're still going to do it," he said. "You can't control state law through local elections."

APD began tracking how often it uses no-knock warrants in 2020, after City Council members asked it to. It found police executed only three no-knock warrants last year.

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