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Sen. Roberts seeks to set statewide policy on no-knock warrants

Jefferson City, Mo. — On June 14, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones signed an executive order banning no-knock warrants in the Gateway City. The order prevents law enforcement from entering an individual’s property without notification, according to a press release from the city of St. Louis.

The complete ban of no-knock warrants in St. Louis builds upon a board bill passed in 2020 that limited the use of no-knock warrants in drug cases. 

Sen. Steve Roberts, D-St. Louis City, filed Senate Bill (SB) 1234 last session seeking to set a Missouri-wide policy for carrying out no-knock warrants. SB 1234 does not seek to completely ban no-knock warrants at a state level.

Of course, it would be an extremely rare occurrence for an increasingly conservative state to mimic a policing policy of its most liberal city. However, Roberts believes there is a real chance at legislative compromise. In his view, both sides could stand to benefit from a state-wide no-knock policy.

“This isn’t something that’s dead on arrival, like gun laws,” Roberts said. “It would be one of those compromises on something that they’re (Republicans) trying to get done. Then having something that we’re trying to get done, as well — that’s fair, reasonable, and would have bipartisan support.”

The bill states, among other provisions, that courts must find clear and convincing evidence of a potential no-knock target having a violent background. This includes being alleged to have committed a violent crime, such as a firearm charge or domestic violence charge. 

“What we’re finding is outside of St. Louis, all of these other municipalities have their own rules and standards,” Roberts said. “So my vision was to create a uniform policy that would be applied across the state… to provide consistency across the state to prevent a tragedy like what happened with Breonna Taylor from happening again.”

SB 1234 was not given serious legislative consideration last session, but Roberts believes that the bill stands a chance at passing in the future. Attributing the bill’s failure to a contentious and slow-moving session.

“This was a very unusual legislative session, not much got done, especially in the Senate,” Roberts said. “With all of the federal funding coming in regarding the state budget. And then, of course, the congressional redistricting.”

Roberts has spoken about the legislation with the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The FOP stands as one of Missouri’s most powerful political entities, and one of the most influential voices in state Republican politics. He described the talks with the FOP as “positive.”

“I think that’s (no-knock legislation) something we can work through and get done,” Jay Schroeder, Missouri FOP president said. “We’re all for sitting down and coming up with legislation that everybody likes.”

While the FOP is open to no-knock reform, Schroeder noted the rarity of no-knock warrants being carried out even without legislation in place. St. Louis hadn’t performed a no-knock warrant in the past year before Mayor Jones’ ban.

Roberts is currently running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Congressional District (CD) 1 against incumbent Cori Bush. Should he win, legislators will need to pick up the torch on SB 1234.

Roberts pointed out Sen. Barbara Washington, D-Jackson County, and Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis City, as two senators who could carry the legislation should Roberts find himself in Congress.

May serves on the Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence subcommittee with Roberts. SB 1234 was referred to the subcommittee during spring session but was never voted on.

“I think the initial discussions that I’ve had with our law enforcement agencies have been positive, they’re supportive — they get it,” Roberts said. “I’d be glad to have them (Washington and May) carry the torch on this issue. And I think that it’s something they’d be able to get done.”

Featured Image: Sen. Steven Roberts on “This Week in Missouri Politics” on June 12, 2022. (This Week in Missouri Politics/The Missouri Times)