The topic of no-knock warrants as a police strategy drew strong comments from Killeen City Council candidates at a forum Monday night.
Candidates also presented ideas for economic development, community involvement in fighting crime, the city’s financial struggles and youth activities.
Close to 80 residents braved temperatures in the low 30s Monday night for the council candidate forum sponsored by the Killeen Daily Herald.
All nine candidates for the May 4 election attended. Running for District 2 are candidates Mellisa Brown, Will Baumgartner and incumbent Debbie Nash-King. Seeking the District 3 seat are Sandra Blankenship, Tolly James Jr. and incumbent Jim Kilpatrick, and running in District 4, are incumbent Steve Harris and former council member Brockley King Moore.
Incumbent Shirley Fleming, who is running unopposed for re-election for District 1, was also present Monday, but chose to sit with the audience.
City staff is expected to propose today that the council approve canceling the District 1 uncontested election and renaming Fleming to her seat.
Current council members Butch Menking and Juan Rivera, whose seats are not up for election, also were in the audience.
The question about no-knock warrants was whether candidates favored the tactic, used last week in an investigation that led to a suspect’s death, and used several years ago and led to an officer’s death.
Here’s some remarks from each candidate:
Mellisa Brown: “I’m against no-knock warrants for several reasons. First of all, particularly in this last case, we had a suspect who was killed with no due process for something that was not a capital crime. Even if it is, it puts innocent people and our officers’ lives in danger and their safety at risk.”
Will Baumgartner: “My opinion on the no-knock is that I don’t like them, but I understand the purpose behind them. It’s unfortunate every single time that an officer or a civilian is injured, or worse, but at the same time, the people need to understand that it’s about safety and the safety of everyone involved, to include the people that are around the area as well as the police officers.”
Debbie Nash-King: “The local, state, and federal judge make the decision, based on the information received from the police officer, if a no-knock warrant will be granted. A council member is really not in the place to make that decision because it’s not our profession. It has a risk to it, but the police chief will make that decision.”
Sandra Blankenship: “I don’t think that we need no-knock warrants if we don’t have an El Chapo situation on our hands. It puts the police officers at risk, it puts the civilians in the area at risk, and it should only be used as an absolute last resort.”
Tolly James Jr.: “It is very unfortunate that with these procedures, we have lost lives, at least two times here in the last three years. I think it would not be a problem if we looked back and had these procedures evaluated and asked our chief to evaluate the effectiveness of this versus the loss of life.”
Jim Kilpatrick: “I have 20 years of military service and seven of that was with special operations with the special forces. We used no-knock constantly because you had to have the element of surprise. We saved our lives because of that. But given that factor, we had intelligence that we knew exactly what was going on before we did an operation. I think that has to be done every, every time, and we need to evaluate what our procedures are as we take action.”
Steve Harris: “I agree with Mrs. Blankenship that, if anything, it should be an absolute last resort. Absolutely. I can’t say that I’m fond of the no-knock, but at the same time, I understand why it’s used. Even with the information that they get, it has to be a complete last resort.”
Brockley Moore: “The no-knock policy is between the chief of police and a judge. The council does not have any involvement in that. My opinion about the no-knock: I’m not a police officer, and the crime has dropped in Killeen. The no-knock policy should be reviewed constantly, but it goes back to that original claim: council members are not police officers.
More of the candidates’ responses will be covered in a Sunday story in the Herald. The entire forum can also be found on the Herald Facebook page, facebook.com/kdhnews and will be available on kdhnews.com/centerforpolitics at 5 p.m. today.
If you have questions or concerns you would like to have us address with the candidates, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Killeen questions.”
The Herald’s coverage of the May 4 election will be ongoing.