Healey defends limited use of no-knock warrants, facial recognition

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BOSTON (SHNS) – Attorney General Maura Healey has not signaled what she might do in 2022, but already some of her potential vulnerabilities with young, progressive activists are being exposed as she weighs whether to run for governor after two terms as the state’s top law enforcement official.

Healey, a Democrat, has been popular among social progressives since she burst onto the political scene in 2014. But her support for the continued use of no-knock warrants and facial recognition software in limited circumstances drew the attention Tuesday of some activists who rose to prominence during U.S. Sen. Ed Markey’s successful reelection campaign.

The New York Times last week described the organizers, some of whom are too young to even vote, as an “army of 16 year olds.” And while they helped propel Markey to victory in 2020, they have recently challenged his positions on Israel and Palestine.

On Tuesday, it was Healey’s turn. During an appearance on GBH radio, Cambridge activist Calla Walsh and others used Twitter and email to get hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan to ask Healey about her opposition to eliminating the use of no-knock warrants and facial recognition technology. Healey said she supported last year’s policing accountability bill that limited the use of no-knock warrants and facial recognition technology, but believes both can be valuable in limited circumstances.

With no-knock warrants, Healey said they are sometimes “necessary” in hostage or kidnapping situations to protect the victim and police. The new law requires such warrants to be issued by a judge only if the life of the officer or the life of another person would be endangered if the officer announced themselves and when no minor children or adults older than 65 are believed to be present in the home.

Healey also pointed to the role facial recognition played in capturing the Boston Marathon bombers. Police are required under the new law to seek a court order to use the technology, except in emergencies, under the new law. “I think there’s away to do it that does not discriminate and does not violate people’s privacy and that does help further public safety. But it’s an evolving conversation,” she said.

Patrick from Brighton called in to raise the case of a family in Brighton settling a lawsuit with Boston police for $500,000 after police executed a no-knock warrant on the wrong house. “Your answer doesn’t square for me,” he told the attorney general.

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