Kentucky Senate GOP leader files no-knock warrant bill
LOUISVILLE, Ky (AP) — One of Kentucky’s top GOP lawmakers has filed legislation to ban some no-knock warrants nearly a year after the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot in her home multiple times by police during a botched drug raid in Louisville.
Under Senate President Robert Stivers’ bill, no-knock warrants would only be issued if there was “clear and convincing evidence” that the “crime alleged is a crime that would qualify a person, if convicted, as a violent offender.” That stops short of a measure sponsored by a Louisville Democrat that would ban all no-knock warrants, but that bill hasn’t gained a hearing in the legislature.
Taylor’s March 2020 death launched a series of protests over the summer and into the fall, with many demonstrators calling on state and national officials to ban no-knock warrants.
A grand jury indicted one officer on wanton endangerment charges in September for shooting into a neighbor’s apartment. No officers were charged in connection with her death. Police had a no-knock warrant but said they knocked and announced their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment, a claim some witnesses have disputed. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.
Nevertheless, Louisville’s Metro Council banned no-knock warrants in June 2020. But Stivers said a full ban statewide wasn’t necessary.
“If you look at what the no-knock warrant does, it is related to search warrants for terroristic activity or weapons of mass destruction, evidence related to violent offenses,” he said. “So you’re not going to have a situation that occurred here.”
State Rep. Attica Scott, a Louisville Democrat who took part in downtown protests last year, had prefiled legislation that would ban all no-knock warrants in August 2020. Titled “Breonna’s Law” it also outlines penalties for officers who misuse body cameras and mandates drug and alcohol testing of officers involved in “deadly incidents.”
Republicans hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate.
Scott, the only Black woman in Kentucky’s legislature, said GOP lawmakers should have done more listening to Black lawmakers and community activists.
“I just don’t understand why he and other white Republican members of this legislative body cannot bring themselves to follow the lead of Black people,” she said. “We could work together to amend House Bill 21, to make it even stronger, and to incorporate some of his thoughts and ideas.”
The Senate President defended the legislation at a press event Tuesday, where he joined a bipartisan group of state lawmakers in unveiling legislation that would create an economic development district in Louisville’s predominately Black West End neighborhood.
The measure would return 80% of local tax revenue from the neighborhood to the community for a period of 30 years. A board would manage the funds and would include members of local community groups, businesses, and colleges. It would have to be at least 50% Black.
Democratic state Sen. Gerald Neal dismissed concerns that current residents would be priced out of the neighborhood as more businesses moved in, insisting that the bill prevents displacement because it requires affordable housing and freezes property taxes for homeowners living in the neighborhood as of January 2021.
“While we will ensure that residents have better options, and more affordable leases, our ultimate goal is more occupied homes because we know this builds generational wealth,” said Neal, who is Black.
Stivers, who represents a district in eastern Kentucky, acknowledged that the bill would need support from lawmakers across the state.
“We need this outreach into the state to generate the support for this initiative. It has to come from Paducah; it has to come from Pikeville,” Stivers added. “Louisville has to be strong for my hometown to be strong.”
Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.