LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – What would a Breonna’s Law banning no-knock search warrants and improving police accountability look like in Lexington? That question was at the center of a virtual town hall meeting Monday night held by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Mission Behind Bars and Beyond, and Lex-Stand for Breonna’s Law Coalition.
The panel was made up of people from the faith community, politicians, lawyers, a policy strategist from the ACLU-Kentucky, academicians and others. Questions were also answered from those sent in by people watching the event on Zoom or on Facebook.
It was noted on the state level, “Breonna’s Law,” a bill pre-filed last August by Democratic Representative Attica Scott, of Louisville, who is Black, has not been taken up during this legislative session in Frankfort. It would ban all no-knock search warrants and institute other rules to increase police accountability.
A similar bill that doesn’t go as far as Rep. Scott’s, would ban most no-knock warrants. It was filed this session by Senate President Robert Stivers, who is white. His proposed legislation, which is Senate Bill 4, does not carry the name Breonna’s Law. It has already passed the Senate and is now under consideration in the House.
Representative Scott, who was part of Monday’s town hall, calls the legislative move a clear slap in the face to all the work that has been done across Kentucky to build support for Breonna’s Law.
Representative Scott says the main difference between her proposed legislation and Stivers’, beyond the outright ban versus banning most no-knock warrants, is that her measure, House Bill 21, would require police officers involved in shootings to be tested for drugs and alcohol.
Breonna Taylor was shot to death last year after Louisville Metro Police officers forcibly entered her apartment after midnight on March 13. They were serving a no-knock search warrant looking for drugs, but no drugs were found. Accounts differ on whether the officers announced their presence before entering.
Following Taylor’s death, the use of no-knock search warrants by law enforcement was widely criticized. Louisville’s Metro Council unanimously voted last June to ban the use of the controversial warrants in the city. Just days later, Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton issued a moratorium on the use of no-knock search warrants in the city unless it is a life or death situation. The push is on by some groups in Lexington to get a form of Breonna’s Law passed by the Urban County Council.
District 1 representative from the Urban County Council, James Brown, took part in Monday’s virtual town hall meeting. He is the only African-American on the council. He says representation matters, referring to the lack of minority representation on the council and board of education.
Another common theme among the town hall participants is that there must be legislation and transformation to evoke real change and that everyone must work together to make that happen and it won’t come easy.
Meeting participant Shauntrice Martin, an organizer from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, referenced American abolitionist and political activist Harriett Tubman, when talking about the need for change.
“We need to keep pushing, keep working and keep calling for radical change, like that’s what the end of slavery was. Harriett Tubman had a radical imagination. You think the first time she told somebody about ending slavery or escaping they was like, okay cool, let’s go. No! They was like girl, you gonna get us beat, you know what I’m saying? Some people probably tried to tell on her and everything else, but we have to keep moving. We have to have the social stamina to keep up with this fight.”