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Utah House committee to debate reining in no-knock warrants

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Utah House committee to debate reining in no-knock warrants (KUTV)

UPDATE — During the hearing Friday morning, the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted unanimously to hold the bill, not sending it forward for now.

Original report follows

Utah lawmakers will debate reining in police warrants that let officers forcibly enter a home.

A House committee is scheduled to take up House Bill 245, sponsored by Rep. Craig Hall (R-West Valley City), Friday morning.

Questions about “no-knock warrants” and “knock and announce warrants” come under the umbrella of Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville, Kentucky last March and several incidents that have happened in Utah over the years.

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Hall called those warrants “a dangerous situation” and drafted a bill to rein them in.

“Frankly, I see this as a police protection bill because this is one of the instances that is very dangerous in the line of service,” Hall said, also noting that Breonna Taylor’s death was a factor in his decision to run the bill. “If we can accomplish the law enforcement goals and avoid the confrontation, I see that as a win-win.”

His bill would allow police to enter a home without notice only if someone's in danger of serious injury or death. Otherwise, they'd have to knock, identify themselves, and wait.

“We want to make sure that the officers wait a reasonable amount of time before they go through the door,” said Hall.

Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch, said the bill would be beneficial not just for Utah but also for the entire country.

If this bill was in effect,” said Williams, “we would not have had what had happened to Breonna Taylor.”

Utah has seen problems with no-knock warrants as well. In 2012, in a Salt Lake City neighborhood, police raided the wrong house and startled an elderly woman. Bryan Mannos, who still lives on that street, remembers how he felt.

“My heart was broken,” he said, adding he later felt “a little bit of anger” about how police “just hit the wrong house.”

Chris Burbank was the police chief at the time. He apologized to the woman.

“I remember the sick feeling of making a critical mistake,” Burbank said. “Warrants — and especially no-knock warrants — are utilized far too frequently.”

Burbank is fully behind House Bill 245.

When we look at reforming policing across America, warrants — the service of — is one of the main things that we can do,” Burbank said.

Utah also saw a police officer killed and five others wounded in Ogden in 2012 when they were executing a "knock and announce" warrant.

2News reached out to the Utah State Fraternal Order of Police for comment on the bill Thursday but did not hear back.

The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee will meet Friday at 8 a.m. to consider Hall’s bill. It's one of several police reform bills on the agenda.

MORE: Use of force bill advances in Utah Senate; McCluskey bill passes House

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