Louisville bans 'no-knocks' after Breonna Taylor's death

America Protests Boston
Posted at 10:43 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-12 21:42:43-04

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVF) — Louisville, Kentucky, has banned the use of controversial “no-knock” warrants and named the new ordinance for Breonna Taylor.

She was fatally shot by Louisville officers who burst into her home in March. The city’s Metro Council unanimously voted Thursday night on "Breonna's Law" to ban the controversial warrants after days of protests and calls for reform.

Taylor was shot eight times by officers on March 13 conducting a narcotics investigation. No drugs were found at her home. Her mother, Tamika Palmer, said the new law will save lives.

The family's attorney Lonita Baker, echoed those thoughts in an interview Friday saying not only does this protect civilians, but officers as well.

"This isn't just about civilians, this is about officer safety as well. The same people who say this is a rash decision, I guarantee if you ask them what would you do if someone was breaking into your home? They would say they would shoot them," said Baker.

Breonna's Law also requires the officers serving warrants to wear body cameras. Those cameras have to be turned on at least five minutes before officers announce themselves and can't be turned off until at least five minutes after the warrant is executed.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also introduced federal legislation Thursday that would ban the use of the warrants nationwide.

While Baker says she hasn't spoken to Sen. Paul personally, she says he did speak to Breonna's family before drafting the legislation that will also be named after Breonna. Baker says the family was very grateful to hear Sen. Paul was willing to take the initiative and call for change nationwide.

Tennessee 22nd Judicial District Attorney General Brent Cooper reacted to the decision on social media saying,

"This is an example of a knee jerk reaction to an event creating bad legislation. The Breona Taylor case was certainly a tragedy and you never want to see anything like that happen, however, this law would only cost the lives of more police officers.

No-knock search warrants are rare in my experience and they have a good purpose. 99% of the time, officers are required to "knock and announce" their presence and give occupants a reasonable time to respond, before entering a home with a search warrant. However, in situations where officers have information to believe that knocking and announcing would create a dangerous situation for the officers, they can ask for a No knock search warrant. In that warrant, they have to swear to the information that they relay to the issuing judge that the occupants are armed and a risk to the officers' safety. For example, the occupants are likely armed and may fire upon the officers if given notice of their entry. Again, these warrants are rare, at least in this District."

Thor Eells is the executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association and says he agrees on limiting the number of no-knock warrants, but not eliminating them.

"What we're going to potentially do is by taking this tool entirely away from the profession, in those that have been utilizing it appropriately and professionally for a number of years, we create a different dynamic that will also end in some tragic outcomes," said Eells.

In his experience working on tactical units, Eells says the number of no-knock warrants has dropped significantly. In his early days leading a SWAT command, he says more than 80 percent of their warrants were no-knock. By the time he retired from the post, they were down to eight in a year.

"What I have been seeing is its use declining as our instruction has gained traction in discouraging this as a matter of routine...and instead making no-knock a last resort," said Eells.

Eells says it's up to local law enforcement to require risk assessments before executing no-knock warrants. For suspects who may present a greater risk, only assign tactical SWAT units to those assignments.

"Unfortunately that isn't always the case. Often you have narcotics units as in Houston that then serve a warrant and as well trained as they maybe, they are not as well trained or equipped as the Houston SWAT team," said Eells.

As in Houston, narcotics officers led the no-knock warrant at Taylor's apartment in search of drugs. Taylor's boyfriend shot one officer, before officers fired back, killing Breonna in the process. The narcotics team did not find any drugs in the apartment.

Baker says while Breonna's family is proud of the latest reforms, they still want to see more done for her case. By the time this article is written, none of the officers involved in Breonna's death have been fired or charged.

*Editor's Note: The Associated Press contributed to this article.