No-Knock Warrant Hearings

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Lawmakers could limit police powers in the wake of a shootout that left an elderly woman dead after plainclothes officers stormed her home unannounced using a ``no-knock'' warrant.

At a hearing today legislators signaled they may call for tighter restrictions on how police officers use the warrants. The hearing was called in response to the November 21st shooting death of Kathryn Johnston, who was killed in a shootout during a no-knock search for drugs in her northwest Atlanta home.

State Senator Vincent Fort, who represents the district where Johnston lived, said, ``the war on drugs can not be turned into a war on the community.''

One possibility raised at the meeting was to set tighter guidelines on police use of undercover informants. Another proposal would require police corroborate evidence from the informants before taking action.

Brian Spears, an attorney who specializes in police litigation, said, ``It doesn't have to be this way. The Legislature can take action.''

Atlanta Police Major Joseph Dallas told lawmakers that police struggle to strike a balance between cracking down on crime-ridden neighborhoods without trampling on the freedoms of innocents.

He said, ``The entire police department is right now under a microscope. And I don't mind that.''