Pomona NAACP Pushes No Knock Warrant Ban in Nine Cities
By Dianne Anderson
A decades-long battle among civil rights groups across the nation to ban no knock warrants finally cleared an important hurdle locally in the city of Pomona, now opening the door wider for police accountability and public safety.
Jeanette Ellis Royston, president of the Pomona Valley branch NAACP, said she got involved with the process last summer after receiving a complaint from a local resident, who had dealt with dangerous police raids in her neighborhood.
The branch responded to fight for local change with a focus on prevention and safety for all, she said. They contacted the Pomona police department and met with Chief Michael Ellis.
“The Chief was fantastic, he provided us with input and he totally agreed that there should be policy, but they had nothing on the books,” said Ellis Royston, a resident of Pomona for 45 years. “We wanted to see a ban of the no knock warrant on the books.”
Since last August, she and the team regularly met every other week with the chief, including Councilmembers Nora Garcia and Victor Preciado, and branch NAACP First Vice President, Pastor Ivory Brown.
While the chief was very responsive in speaking with city officials and the police union, he told the team he could only offer a city resolution, not the ban.
The local branch stood their ground until December when it became clear they needed to take a different approach. Together, the branch and councilmembers continued to meet.
“We asked how can we get this banned in the city of Pomona? The two council members on our team said we’ll take it to the council and have the city of Pomona make the decision. We were able to agendize it,” she said.
An outpouring of community support followed. Next up, she said their branch NAACP is set to lead another broader effort of their mission to sway nine surrounding cities to also ban no-knock warrants.
“That’s our next step. The reason is because we have Pomona Valley branch members who are residents, and are working in those other nine cities,” said Ellis Royston, who is also a Los Angeles County Human Relations Commissioner, Pomona Community Life Commissioner, and she serves on the board of the United Nations of Pomona Valley.
The five cities in San Bernardino County include Upland, Ontario, Chino, Chino Hills and Montclair. The five cities in Los Angeles County including Pomona are Diamond Bar, La Verne, San Dimas, and Claremont.
Since reactivating the branch in 2013, her goal was to reestablish trust and operate under their moniker that together is stronger.
She said the push for the ban was at the direction of the national NAACP, which had tapped her to service the ten cities.
“The responsibility that I have tasked the members is to make sure to attend city council, school board meetings and police meetings, and to be involved in your community as well as the Pomona Valley Branch,” she said.
Most of all, she said their focus is on prevention and safety for all.
“Criminal justice and public safety, it isn’t just for Black people,” she said. “My approach was prevention for all. If there’s a no knock ban, the police officer can’t lose his life, as well as innocent bystanders.”
Pomona City Council approved the No Knock Warrant ban unanimously February 1.
Lisa Engdahl, a Pomona resident for over 20 years within District 2, said she got involved because the ban on no-knock warrants hit too close to home.
Grenades first blasted through her community in 2013. After the first raid, she and her husband and their elderly next-door neighbor met with the former police chief, who she said admitted procedural errors, but nothing changed over time by way of policy.
“During the raid, the older gentleman next door to us started to go into shock, and his wife asked the police if she could take him outside or give him food, but they wouldn’t let her respond to his distress. She also asked to remove her 5-year-old granddaughter from the raid, and they would not let her,” Engdahl testified before the city council.
Again in 2016, flash grenades shook her house. This time, flash grenades went off at her elderly neighbor’s home, blasting close to the grandchildren asleep at the time. She said both kids could have been severely burned, or worse.
“They threw a flash grenade in the front living room, where a two-year and five-year-old granddaughters were sleeping. They busted down the doors. This is something where they could have knocked, and my neighbors would have answered,” she said.
Police also raided a neighboring gang house, but no suspect was there.
Her testimony emphasized the risk that the Pomona Police Department took in executing the warrant with the SWAT raids, and that the suspect was found blocks away.
Engdahl commended Ellis Royston for taking the charge of facilitating meetings to bring the no-knock warrant to an end.
“What we felt as a group is we don’t want to wait until there’s a tragedy, we know we came close to having a tragedy already, and we know what happened to a lovely young woman named Breonna Taylor,” she said. “This could happen here too.”
For more information on PV NAACP, see https://www.facebook.com/NAACPPVB/
To catch up with Pomona city council meetings, see
To learn more about No Knock Raids and community action nationally, see https://www.change.org/l/us/banning-no-knock-warrants