LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Lawyers for a man who claims police lied to obtain a no-knock arrest warrant for him said Tuesday that a 2014 memo from Little Rock police shows the department had a policy to use SWAT teams, which are typically only used for high-risk situations, to execute all search warrants.
Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Michael Laux released an internal police memo in which a sergeant calls the department's use of its SWAT team to execute all search warrants a "mandate" from the Office of the Chief of Police.
But an operations document from two years prior which outlines the use of the department's SWAT team says the specialized unit serves "hazardous warrants" in which violence or weapons are expected.
At a press conference, Laux said the lawyers now have what they believe are over 20 credible claims against the Little Rock Police Department in which no-knock warrants were wrongly used. He also said prosecutors have dropped charges for more than a dozen people.
Crump and Laux are representing Roderick Talley, who is suing Little Rock police for blasting open his door to serve an arrest warrant for dealing cocaine. But in the search, authorities found no cocaine. On the affidavit to obtain a warrant, police said they observed a drug deal. Talley then released surveillance footage outside his apartment which shows the police's informant walking up to Talley's door, ringing his doorbell and leaving after no one answers.
Earlier this month, Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter said in a public meeting that the video Talley released had been edited, but did not explain how. Laux said Tuesday that an independent expert verified Talley's footage was unedited, though he did not say who the expert was or how its authenticity was verified. Carpenter could not be reached for comment.
Last week, Houston's police chief said his department will no longer use SWAT teams to serve "no-knock" warrants after police killed a couple during an exchange of gunfire while serving a warrant. Police later alleged an officer lied to obtain the warrant.
A Little Rock Police Department spokesman could not be reached for comment.