The Newnan Times-Herald

Local

Crane defends comments on no-knock warrants


  • By Sarah Fay Campbell
  • |
  • Apr. 09, 2016 - 6:36 AM

Coweta State Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan, has been under scrutiny for his comments made February at a Republican event in Coweta.

During his speech to the group, Crane railed against the use of “no knock” warrants, which have resulted in the deaths of some Georgians in cases of mistaken identity, and in the injury of a baby in north Georgia in 2014.

Excerpts from Crane’s speech to the group were put together in a video and circulated on Facebook by the vice president of the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police.

In the video, Crane states that “law enforcement doesn’t have a stronger advocate than Mike Crane.”

In another clip, he calls out the illegality of “judicial usurpation of our rights.”

“When the judge comes along and says you can kick down that man’s door, you can throw a flash grenade in that baby’s crib, you can do whatever you want and kill a lady that comes to the door because she’s afraid someone has entered her house illegally,” Crane said as an example of judicial usurpation.

“If you come to my house, kick down my door, if I have an opportunity I will shoot you dead. And everyone of you should do the same,” Crane told the group.

When asked about the controversy Friday, Crane said that, while his comments were probably "not the best-phrased thing I’ve ever said, I’ll never apologize for defending my home or anybody else’s right to defend their home.”

Crane said he is very much opposed to no-knock warrants, which he thinks are dangerous for law enforcement and dangerous for the public, as well as unconstitutional.

Crane said that he hasn’t caught much flack from the speech and the video. “I’ve gotten so many comments of support because people understand the underlying issue. They get that I may not have used the best phraseology, it may have been a ‘Trump’ moment. But at the end of the day, the question is are no-knock warrants good policy and practice?

“If anybody kicks down my door I will shoot them dead if I can. If I know it’s the police, they don’t have to kick down my door. I’m going to let them in. How do I know it is the police?”

Oftentimes, officers serving no-knock warrants are either wearing plain clothes or black swat gear. “What if they break down the door, what if they shout ‘police' and I’m wrong, and they rape and kill my family,” Crane said. “There are all kinds of bad people doing bad things.

“I will defend my home and if I’m uncertain of the invader of my home space I will shoot first and ask questions later,” Crane said.

According to the video, Georgia law requires officers to identify themselves as they are serving a no-knock warrant.

Newnan Police Chief Buster Meadows said Friday that “with a no-knock, we hit the door hollering ‘police.’ We identify ourselves.”

No-knock warrants aren’t particularly easy to get. “You have to jump through hoops to get them,” Meadows said. Officers seeking warrants have to prove that they are needed, either because the officers’ lives would be in danger otherwise, or because they think evidence will be destroyed if a regular warrant is used.

Meadows said he was shocked to hear Crane’s comments. “I think it’s sad to encourage people to shoot police,” he said.

"I don’t agree with him, that’s quite evident,” Coweta Sheriff Mike Yeager said about Crane’s comments. "I guess he’s entitled to his thoughts but I don’t think he understand the laws as they apply to warrants, no knock, search, etc. He’s wrong. Officers have certain criteria they apply for warrants – no matter what kind.”

Yeager said that the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t executed a no-knock warrant in the more than 20 years he has been sheriff.

Some other law enforcement agencies use them frequently. "I talk to some sheriffs who say that’s the only kind they apply for,” Yeager said. The rules are stringent. Do things sometimes go wrong? Yes, Yeager said. But “is it a flawed system? I don’t think so. It has its faults like anything else but we have to honor and work with it. I don’t agree with anyone saying 'I'll shoot you and encourage you to do the same,’” Yeager said.

“No-knock warrants are meant to protect officers. When you have information that someone could be armed or other evidence presented to a judge that we need to do it this way for security of everyone, that’s what it’s about,” Yeager said.

Crane said that about a year ago, the Senate Judicial Non-Civil Committee, on which he serves, was discussing efforts to put rules on no-knock warrants into state law. Current state law doesn’t really address them.

Crane doesn’t think the no-knock warrants make things safer for law enforcement. “Is it worth putting law enforcement officers’ lives on the line to make sure drugs aren’t flushed down the toilet?” Crane asked. “I believe law enforcement has the tools and the manpower they need to safely apprehend people without kicking down doors in the middle of the night.”

Crane said he’d like to see stricter requirements on the warrants. One recommendation is requiring a supervisor to sign off on the warrant application. And, the officer requesting the warrant as well as the supervisor should sign off on a statement acknowledging that the no-knock warrants may put innocent people and law enforcement in danger. He’d also like to see the use of no-knock warrants restricted to daylight hours.