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Amid continued calls for police reform, the Louisville City Council voted unanimously on June 11 to ban “no-knock” warrants. A day later, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he had signed Breonna’s Law.
On March 13, Breonna Taylor was murdered when three officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department executed a no-knock warrant at her apartment in the middle of the night. The 26-year-old was sleeping next to her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, when the officers stormed into her apartment as part of a narcotics investigation, shot her eight times and killed her.
Walker, believing the couple was being burglarized, fired a shot and struck an officer in the leg. Police responded by firing indiscriminately and striking Taylor multiple times. Walker also called 911 and told a dispatcher, “somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.”
Taylor died in the hallway of her apartment.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, spoke to the council before members voted on the bill. “All Breonna wanted to do was save lives,” Palmer said, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. “So it’s important this law passes, because with that, she’ll get to continue to do that, even in her death.”
The measure not only prohibits the use of no-knock warrants, but also requires officers who are serving warrants to wear body cameras. Those cameras must be activated at least five minutes before the warrant is served and cannot be turned off until at least five minutes afterwards.
The three officers who served the no-knock warrant at Taylor’s home were not wearing body cameras.
Councilwoman Jessica Green (D-1st District) and Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith (D-4th District) were the original sponsors of the bill. It was passed by a unanimous city council vote.
A day after the measure passed the City Council, Fischer said he signed Breonna’s Law “with a profound sense of hope.”
No-Knock Warrants at the State and Federal Level
No-knock warrants were legalized by Congress in 1970 during President Richard Nixon’s “War on Crime.” The law was rescinded four years later following several incidents of people and officers being shot during the unannounced raids, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
Only two states — Oregon and Florida — outlaw the use of no-knock warrants. Oregon state law prohibits no-knock entries. Meanwhile, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that no-knock warrants have a “staggering potential for violence to both occupants and police.”
While a ban on no-knock warrants was passed in Louisville, it remains unclear if a similar law will gain traction at the state level. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s office did not respond to The North Star’s questions as to whether Beshear (D) would support a ban on no-knock warrants at the state level.
On June 11, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed a bill that is similar to Breonna’s Law that would ban no-knock warrants at the federal level. The legislation, which is named the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, would require federal law enforcement officers to announce themselves and their purpose before entering a home, Politico reported.
Paul’s bill would also affect state and local law enforcement agencies that get funding from the Department of Justice.
“After talking with Breonna Taylor’s family, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s long past time to get rid of no-knock warrants,” the Republican senator said in a statement. “This bill will effectively end no-knock raids in the United States.”
The idea behind Paul’s measure is widely supported by Congressional Democrats, according to Politico. Democrats have proposed legislation that would prohibit chokeholds, limit “qualified immunity” and ban no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level.
Latest Developments in Taylor’s Case
The three officers involved in Taylor’s fatal shooting were identified as Jonathan Mattingly, 47; Brett Hankison, 44; and Myles Cosgrove, 42. Although they were placed on administrative reassignment, neither of the men have been charged with Taylor’s death.
On June 10, the Louisville Metro Police Department released the incident report from the fatal incident. The four-page report is nearly entirely blank and only lists the time, date, case number, incident location and victim’s name, age and race, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.
Despite being shot at least eight times, the report lists Taylor’s injuries as “none.” The report lists the charges as “death investigation — LMPD involved” but checked off “no” under “forced entry.” In the narrative section of the report, it simply reads: “PIU investigation.”
LMPD acknowledged the report’s errors and claimed it was “taking immediate steps to correct the report and to ensure the accuracy of incident reports going forward.”
Mayor Fischer criticized the report as “unacceptable” and issued an apology to Taylor’s family.
“Full stop. It’s issues like this that erode public confidence in LMPD’s ability to do its job, and that’s why I’ve ordered an external top-to-bottom review of the department,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am sorry for the additional pain to the Taylor family and our community.”
Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing Taylor’s family, said LMPD’s report was an insult and again called for the officer’s involved to be arrested and charged. “Not only is it an insult for LMPD to release an INCORRECT & nearly BLANK incident report, but it’s infuriating to know the officers involved in #BreonnaTaylor’s murder have NOT BEEN ARRESTED or CHARGED,” Crump tweeted.
Fischer announced on May 20 that an internal investigation into the case was transferred to the office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron. The attorney general or a special prosecutor he designates will decide whether to pursue criminal charges against Mattingly, Hankison and Cosgrove.
LMPD’s internal investigation was also sent to the U.S. Attorney and the FBI Louisville field office.
Protecting Yourself From Tear Gas
Before being exposed: Do not wear contact lenses or makeup. This could trap the tear gas on your skin and eyes. Try to wear protective goggles if possible. Remember to wear a mask, which you should already be wearing to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Wear long sleeves and long pants to protect as much of your skin as possible.
If exposed: Get yourself out of the area immediately. The CDC recommends seeking higher ground as most Riot Control Agents (RCAs) are heavier than air.
Clothing: The RCAs will have contaminated your clothing, be sure to remove the clothes as soon as possible and discard. Clothing that needs to be removed over the head should be cut instead. The CDC recommends wearing rubber gloves and putting the contaminated clothes in a bag and then seal that bag in another bag.
Exposed Skin: The International News Safety Institute recommends washing with soap and water. First, shower in cold water and then in warm water. Do not bathe. Wash your face as soon as you can, but do not rub the skin as you don’t want to activate the powder in tear gas. Do not rinse your eyes and face with milk, instead use water.
Protecting Yourself: Technology Edition
Smartphone: Smartphones can easily give out information that police can later use against protesters. Turn off your location data and remove facial and fingerprint recognition. If you need to communicate with friends or family, be sure to download and use the Signal app, which encrypts messages. WIRED recommends Android users head to Settings, then Security and make sure the Encrypt Disk option is selected.
Social Media: Do not post photos or videos with geotags and consider blurring the faces of protesters when sharing information on social media.
Police Conduct App: The ACLU has created the Mobile Justice app to record police conduct. You can learn more about the app here.
Identifying Clothing or Tattoos: It is highly recommended you wear clothing that is not easily identifiable. Be sure to cover any tattoos that can be used by law enforcement to identify you.
In Case You’re Arrested: Write the number down of a lawyer, organization or friend/family member that you can call if you’re arrested on your skin. Be sure to have a form of ID in your pocket.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.