Hamilton police say it will improve tracking no-knock raids after oversight agency recommendations

Hamilton Police Services (HPS) says it will improve its tracking of how often officers execute no-knock raids, a term for when they barge into homes unannounced while executing search warrants.

Dep. Chief Ryan Diodati told the HPS board about this and other changes the service is implementing amid recommendations from the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) to all police services about no-knock raids.

No-knock raids, also called dynamic entries, are supposed to be rare.

In Canada, investigators need to get a search warrant approved, usually by a justice of the peace, but it’s police, not judges, who decide when a no-knock entry will be used. By law, officers usually must knock on someone’s door, identify themselves as police, and wait for someone to answer before executing a search warrant. 

Police services say no-knock raids are only used if there’s a higher risk of danger or the potential destruction of evidence. 

The practice has come under increasing scrutiny by judges and community activists in Canada after the death of a 23-year-old Black man in Ottawa in 2020.

But they’ve been on the rise across the country in recent years, including in Brantford, Halton and Hamilton.

Calls for more checks and balances have also grown in that time.

Changes by Hamilton police

Diodati said HPS reviewed its own plan as well as other jurisdictions like Toronto.

The September 2022 report from HPS to the OIPRD says the service’s existing policies on the raids won’t change, but there will be changes at the planning stages, what happens after the raids and tracking data.

“The current tracking system is compartmentalized and less than efficient. In fact, the impracticality of the system in place has the potential to yield inaccurate statistical data,” read the report from HPS.

“A working group is currently exploring options to standardize the process.”

The report says the officer who fills out the operational planning form for a raid has to provide “more ample detail” on how police are assessing risks ahead of time.

The supervisor in charge of the raid will also now have to submit a document with more details about why officers are using a no-knock raid.

OIPRD also recommended police disclose operational plans and risk assessments when getting a judge’s approval, but HPS said it would be “problematic” to do so because the plan could change “up to the last moment.”

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