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'Breonna's Law' Would Ban No-Knock Warrants Statewide

Stephanie Wolf

Kentucky State Rep. Attica Scott unveiled proposed legislation Sunday morning that would ban no-knock warrants statewide.

Scott, a Democrat who represents part of Jefferson County, was joined by several of her colleagues as well as local community organizers and activists in Jefferson Square Park for the announcement. She said the bill is to ensure that what happened to Louisville resident Breonna Taylor never occurs again. Taylor was killed in March by Louisville Metro Police officers executing a warrant with a provision that allowed them to enter without knocking.

“There was never a need for no-knock search warrants like the one used in Breonna’s case,” she said. “While this type of warrant is now banned here in Metro Louisville and appears to have little use elsewhere, I want to make sure statewide law keeps it from ever coming back.”

Louisville’s mayor signed an ordinance, also called “Breonna’s Law,” in June after Metro Council passed it unanimously. It bans no-knock warrants in Jefferson County and expands the police usage of body cameras. 

Scott pre-filed the bill known as “Breonna’s Law” Thursday, five months to the day that police shot and killed Taylor. She said the date wasn’t intentional, but “God works in mysterious ways.”

The bill mandates that law enforcement knock or announce themselves before executing a search warrant. it would also require drug and alcohol testing for police officers after a fatal police shooting and penalties for officers who don’t use their body cameras while executing a search warrant, Scott said.

“Five minutes before you serve that warrant, and five minutes after, those body cameras better be on,” she said. “In Louisville… we spend way too much on their body cameras for y’all to not turn them on.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic State Reps. Charles Booker, George Brown Jr., Kelly Flood, Joni Jenkins, Nima Kulkarni, Reginald Meeks, Patti Minter, Buddy Wheatley and Lisa Willner.

Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression hosted Sunday’s press conference, as part of its weekly news conferences in the square. 

“When cops go out there in plain clothes, and beat down doors, bad things happen,” Aguiar said. “This legislation needs to get passed. People die because of this. Breonna died because of this.” 

ACLU of Kentucky policy strategist Keturah Herron urged people at the square, as well as those listening via livestream from home, to call state lawmakers and call on them to support this bill.

“We’re gonna pass Breonna’s Law statewide here in Kentucky,” Herron said. “All eyes are on Kentucky.”

Rep. Lisa Willner, a Democrat representing Jefferson County’s 35th district, said she came to stand with the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression.

“I’m here to stand with Black women,” she said. “I’m here to say the name, Breonna Taylor.

“I’ve been listening to the stories of folks who have been out here day in and day out, who’ve been participating in lifting up their voices exercising their First Amendment rights, who have been traumatized at the hands of the police,” she said. “I’m a psychologist by training. We’ve got folks walking around all over this city suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Willner said the bill would also ban the use of chemical agents, “non-lethal weapons,” and long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD), and she credited Scott’s daughter, Ashanti, for that addition to the bill.

The bill would also penalize officers for targeting members of the press, street medics, or anyone offering assistance to protesters, she said.

Rep. Charles Booker also took the microphone during the press conference. 

“I hear this at the national level all the time, where they want to frame it as, because we’re calling out for justice, we’re looked at as a mob,” he said. “We’re looked at as if we’re troublemakers, but we causing good trouble.”

Carmen Jones, with the Kentucky Alliance, was arrested on June 15 during protests. She said she’s an “action-ist, not an activist because I’m about that action,” and had a message for Mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville Metro Police. 

“Even when these visitors [with Until Freedom] leave, there’s going to be people like me… who live here, who are invested in this community, who want to hold this fire to your backside,” Jones said. “And I need you to understand that, as a young [person], I will make sure that every time you mess up, whether it be with education, whether it be with housing, whether it be with policing, we will be in the streets.”

Kentucky’s General Assembly will take up Breonna’s Law in January 2021, when state lawmakers return to the Capitol.