“The fight is far from over,” as no-knock warrant legislation is signed in Kentucky
The bill was named “Breonna’s Law,” in honor of Breonna Taylor, who was killed during a police raid back in March 2020.
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On Friday, April 9, the governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, signed a partial ban of no-knock warrants after months of demonstrations in honor of Breonna Taylor, the young Black woman who was shot and killed in her home last year during a police raid.
The law is not the total ban that many protestors and some Democratic lawmakers were hoping for — a proposal that had been introduced as “Breonna's Law" — but it doesn’t prevent individual cities and towns from banning the warrants completely.
The law only permits no-knock warrants in the case of “clear and convincing evidence” that the crime being investigated “would qualify a person, if convicted, as a violent offender.”
.@GovAndyBeshear joined Breonna Taylor's family, lawmakers, and community activists this morning to sign #SB4, a version of #BreonnasLaw. SB4 will severely restrict no-knock warrants and save lives. There are too many exemptions, but it's a strong start. #KYGA21 #NoMoreNoKnocks— ACLU of Kentucky (@ACLUofKY) April 9, 2021
Taylor, a Louisville emergency medical technician studying to become a nurse, was shot multiple times in March 2020 after being roused from her bed by police. No drugs were found in the raid, and the warrant was later found to be flawed.
In Taylor’s case, a no-knock warrant was approved as part of a narcotics investigation at the Louisville Metro Police Department. Officers claim they did knock and make their presence known, but some witnesses have disputed that claim.
Gov. Beshear said that this legislation marks “meaningful change.”
“It will save lives, and it will move us in the right direction. I know more needs to be done. I know the fight is not over,” he said.
As Beshear signed the bill at Louisville’s Center for African American Heritage, members of the Taylor family stood behind him. Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, shed tears as she accepted the pen the governor used to sign the measure.
The family’s attorney, Lonita Baker, made it clear that the legislation isn’t exactly what was originally desired, but they are satisfied that a win was achieved in the state’s deeply-divided General Assembly.
Baker added that the family is looking forward to working closely with lawmakers on future legislation to continue restricting warrants and increasing police accountability.
The legislation sought by the Taylor family and by protestors, known as “Breonna’s Law,” would have banned all no-knock warrants, outlined penalties for officers who misuse body cameras, and mandated drug and alcohol testing of officers involved in “deadly incidents.”
But under the law that was passed, any no-knock warrant must be executed between the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and officers must take additional steps in order to obtain warrants.
Judges are now required to legibly sign when approving them and an EMT must now be close by during execution of the warrant.
State Senator Reggie Thomas, who co-sponsored the bill, said during the signing ceremony that the legislation was a “step in the right direction.”
“We were asked repeatedly to say her name; I think we heard her name," Thomas said of Taylor. "I hope with the signing of this legislation today that there will be no other names, ever, here in Kentucky, that we'll have to say or hear again."
Beshear said he is signing the bill to help ensure that no other mother will ever know the grief felt by Tamika Palmer over the loss of her daughter.
At least three officers involved with the raid have been terminated from the police force, but none of the officers who fired their weapons face any criminal charges related to Taylor’s death.
In September, Louisville granted Taylor’s family a $12 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit, which also included a series of local police reforms.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said on Friday that they applaud the move as an “excellent first step in reimagining the role of police in community safety,” although the measure did not go far enough to truly provide justice for Taylor nor change and healing for the community.
Pointing to the bill’s unanimous support in the Senate and its 92-vote passage in the House, the ACLU of Kentucky stated that the need for such reform is evident, and it urged advocates and policymakers to continue pushing for improvements.
"This is a win, but the fight is not over," it added.