Justice Department Seeks to Improve Public Trust

By Rebecca Chieffallo, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

On September 14, 2021, the Department of Justice added additional requirements for obtaining no-knock search warrants and limiting the use of neck restraint techniques like chokeholds and carotid restraints.[1] Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco released an announcement detailing the newly added, department-wide changes and restraints.[2]

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said the new limitations are important for improving public trust and confidence within all law enforcement. “The limitations implemented today…are among the important steps the [Department of Justice] is taking to improve law enforcement safety and accountability,” Garland said. [3]

The added requirements follow the Department of Justice’s June 2021 instruction for federal agencies to create a body-worn camera policy for agents and officers during searches, whether through warrant or search and seizure. [4]

Generally, federal agents show their presence by knocking, then announce their identity, purpose, and demand for entry of a private residence. No-knock warrants previously allowed agents to enter homes without announcing themselves or notifying the residents.[5]

Before the limitations, federal agents used the no-knock warrants in situations where announcing their presence would result in destroyed evidence, or when the situation was extraordinarily dangerous.[6] Now, the warrants may only be used when there is a belief that knocking and announcing law enforcement presence would result in the threat of physical violence or harm to either the residents or the agents themselves.[7] Further, the added changes limit the use of the warrants by requiring the approval of both an agency supervisor and a federal prosecutor.[8] Many departments began to ban the use of no-knock and neck restraint techniques following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.[9]

Deputy Attorney General Monaco said that operating under a consistent set of standards is important in maintaining the public’s trust. “It’s essential that law enforcement… adhere to a single set of standards,” Monaco said, “This new policy does just that and limits the circumstances in which… [these] techniques can be used.”[10]

The policy still recognizes the need for exceptions and understands that other justifications rather than only physical harm may exist. Likewise, these additional justifications still require the approval from the head of the agency along with a federal prosecutor.[11]

The announcement from the Department of Justice highlights its purpose of positive public engagement. According to the Department, “[The] announcement expands on the… efforts to examine the way the Justice Department law enforcement components engage with individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system.” [12]

Deputy Attorney General Monaco recognizes the responsibilities of law enforcement to encourage trust of the public, which the policy serves to do. “As members of federal law enforcement, we have a shared obligation to lead by example in a way that engenders the trust and confidence of the communities we serve,” Monaco said. [13]

[1] https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/department-justice-announces-department-wide-policy-chokeholds-and-no-knock-entries

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] https://apnews.com/article/death-of-george-floyd-george-floyd-united-states-breonna-taylor-0f4fe5a44589b09d9616af3dabcd418c

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/14/politics/justice-chokeholds-no-knock-warrant/index.html  

[10] https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/department-justice-announces-department-wide-policy-chokeholds-and-no-knock-entries

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

Comments are closed.