Shea dispels NYPD no-knock warrant myths, has eye on possible Chauvin trial protests in NYC

Commissioner Dermot Shea on April 15th.
Photo by Dean Moses

On Thursday morning Police Commissioner Dermot Shea discussed everything from no-knock warrants to the trial of Derek Chauvin and robotic police dogs.

A press conference was called at 11 a.m. within the bowels of One Police Plaza in hopes of “setting the record straight” regarding the use of search warrants throughout the city, but with tensions once again mounting between officers and the public, the topic of conversation was swiftly broadened.

Top cop Shea began by stressing the importance of executing search warrants, especially with both NYPD officers and citizens alike facing an increased surge in gun violence. Shea says the police department has had a 60% increase in gun arrests when compared to last year, which he credits search warrants as a vital tool. Still, Shea also emphasized that he feels as though search warrants have been misrepresented. In an effort to ease the public’s concern, police officials exhibited the way in which they carry out these warrants and what they hope to prevent by doing so.

“No-knock warrants are a critical tool that NYPD uses. To keep narcotics off the streets and to seize illegal firearms. It’s also critical for the safety of all New Yorkers and NYPD officers to be known and seen in these situations,” said Chief of Department Rodney K. Harrison, who began to dispel myths regarding no-knock warrants.

Chief of Department Rodney K. Harrison speaks on warrants. Photo by Dean Moses

He first explained that despite the name, no-knock, this does not mean that no announcement is made prior to entry into a home, highlighting that NYPD protocol is to always announce their presence and no-knock means that they do not have to wait for someone to open the door to let them into the premises. Harrison likewise stated that officers conduct background checks to identify the appropriate induvial and location, as well as NYPD officers being trained in initiating these no-knock warrants.

Harrison also announced that these situations require meticulous planning.  Last year, approximately 1,815 warrants were approved by NYC courts, which lead to the search and seizure of 792 firearms and 667 times narcotics were recovered. There were only 40 incidents where no evidence was found.  

A graphic video taken on Feb. 16th was shown of a suspect and known member of the Chase Gang named John Whitmore-Wright shooting a woman, Sabrina Santiago, in the head during a domestic dispute. The gunman had been on NYPD’s radar after local complaints. Detectives gathered intel on drug exchanges and the presence of firearms in order to implement a search warrant in Far Rockaway. Officers used this footage to exhibit the level of danger involved with the individuals officers encounter after obtaining probable cause to initiate a search warrant, police officials hope New Yorkers feel more at ease with their work in this field.

In addition, Shea also spoke on his disappointment with recent protests and graffiti calling for the death of NYPD officers.

“You had an incident on 77th Street and 5th to Madison last night where a number of arrests were made. You had windows broken, you had people’s private cars graffitied, you had people spray-painting kill cops… kill cops. This is why we have memorials for cops because words matter and spreading hate,” Shea said, reminding the media that last week he and community groups volunteered to paint over graffiti to clean up New York City.

video taken on Feb. 16th was shown of a suspect and known member of the Chase Gang named John Whitmore-Wright shooting a woman. Photo by Dean Moses

Shea did not mince his words when he called those vandalizing the streets with a “call for the assassination of cops” as knuckleheads.

“I’m past asking and demanding at this point. They need to go to jail. They need to be held accountable. They were arrested for misdemeanors,” Shea said, adding “They cannot not be prosecuted. We are going to following these arrests and demand, a misdemeanor in New York State you are eligible for up to a year in jail, well I can’t think of anyone who deserves a year in jail better than them,” Shea said.

On the topic of protests, Shea said the NYPD is preparing for the possibility of further protests upon the verdict delivery within the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota. With this on the horizon, Shea believes that the extent of the looming protests hinges on the verdict.

“We like everyone else, like the whole country, whether you’re in law enforcement or not, is kind of watching with bated breath to what comes out of that trial. I certainly hope justice is served. But we have to be prepared for anything in the law enforcement world,” Shea said.

He shared that the Strategic Response Group (SRG) has received several recommendations since last year and implementing tactic changes. He feels confident in his preparations going forward into the trial decision.

The recent use of a robotic dog on the scene of a disturbed man barricaded in his Kips Bay Apartment was also mentioned. While Shea did not want to get into detail regarding the Digidog, he did respond to accusations on this technology being a waste of funds.

“I think it’s important how we spend our money. We certainly also worry about our bomb jobs going in and keeping people safe and hostage jobs. So, we will evaluate this. It’s important to say that we did not purchase this. But we have currently technology such as robots this is another option. We are in the evaluation phase and we will go from there,” Shea said.