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NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea defends 'no knock' search warrants

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea at a March news

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea at a March news briefing. On Thursday he held a news conference where he defended the police department's use of "no knock" searches. Credit: Sipa USA via AP/Photographer Lev Radin

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea and other department officials Thursday defended the use of "no knock" search warrants, saying they are done with multiple layers of checks and controls to prevent cops from going to the wrong address.

At a news conference called to answer criticism of the warrants, Shea and members of his executive staff said the judicial warrants are "executive lawfully, efficiently and very effectively" at a time when the city is experiencing increased violence.

Shea said recent citizen complaints in news reports over search warrants done at the wrong addresses are factually inaccurate.

Chief of Department Rodney Harrison said: "Just because a warrant says ‘no knock’ does not mean we don’t make any announcements. In fact, it is NYPD’s practice and tradition to make our presence clearly known. No knock simply means that we don’t have to wait [for] someone to open the door … in an attempt to make entry."

Harrison said cops do a series of background checks to identify appropriate individuals and locations where a warrant is being executed.

In 2020, some 1,800 no knock warrants were used to seize 792 firearms and 667 quantities of drugs, said Harrison, acknowledging that in some cases, firearms or drugs were not at the locations being searched.

Addressing three narcotics no knock warrant cases widely reported recently, NYPD Assistant Chief Joseph Kenny said they needed to be explained to dispel rumors and misperceptions. Using visual maps, Kenny described two of the searches as having been conducted in the 101st Precinct. He said the searches were based on 911 call complaints and undercover drug purchases from certain addresses where gang involvement and narcotics were linked.

When some reporters at the news conference told Kenny they had been informed by others in the NYPD that one of the searches was at the wrong address, he said that was "absolutely" false.

Cops did further investigation, Kenny said, and discovered that one suspect was a member of the notorious Chase Gang and sold narcotics from one of the two buildings. Another suspect, Jonathan Wigmore Wright, also an alleged member of the Chase Gang active in Far Rockaway, currently faces charges after wounding a woman when he shot her in the head in Queens, officials said.

The third search, March 19 in Laurelton, Queens, took place at the home of a retired corrections officer, Kenny said, adding that the address was part of a police investigation based on drug buys by undercover officers.

Shea said that while the searches were properly executed at the home, prosecutors declined to charge anyone for the small quantities of drugs seized.

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