UPDATE: Search Warrant Task Force issues final report

Provides Eight Recommendations for the Commonwealth’s Search Warrant Process

UPDATE POSTED 10 A.M. DEC. 21, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – A state task force developed in response to the 2020 shooting death of Breonna Taylor by Louisville Metropolitan Police during the execution of a no-knock search warrant has issued its final recommendations.

The Search Warrant Task Force final report (click here) was finished two weeks ago and released Tuesday. It provides eight recommendations related to the securing, reviewing, and serving of search warrants in the Commonwealth.

“From the beginning, the goal of the Task Force has been to conduct a top to bottom review of the search warrant process and to make recommendations for establishing Kentucky as a national model for how search warrants should be pursued and served,” said Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who established the task force after being criticized for his response to the shooting and his presentation to a grand jury. “The members of the Task Force carefully and deliberately undertook this charge.  The final recommendations reflect law enforcement’s role in advancing public safety and acknowledge the personal protections guaranteed by our Constitution.  I am proud of the Task Force’s work and appreciate the invaluable contributions of the 18 men and women who gave their time to this process.”

The Task Force recommends:

  1. As soon as feasible, all state and local agencies with the authority to execute search warrants should utilize an electronic platform maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts for handling those warrants; paper copies of search warrants should be maintained as back-up.
  2. Agencies serving search warrants should track the locations at which the warrants are served. Those locations should be regularly published in a manner that is accessible to the public. The format should allow the public to compare the number of search warrants served across various zip codes and regions of the Commonwealth. The format should not reveal the addresses for which search warrants were sought or obtained.
  3. In the absence of an emergency, a prosecutor should review and approve a proposed search warrant before the investigating agency seeks judicial authorization for the warrant.
  4. Law enforcement officers should receive search warrant-related training at the beginning of their careers and thereafter should receive updated training regularly, as determined by the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training. The curriculum should include: search warrant form and mandatory components; accurately describing the property to be searched; developing and articulating probable cause; time limitations for probable cause and execution of warrants; officer and citizen safety concerns in execution of warrants; and proper documentation of an executed search warrant.
  5. All law enforcement bodies should adopt, enforce, and regularly update written policies and procedures that govern the service of search warrants in their jurisdictions. An example of such policies and procedures can be found in the report.
  6. For every search warrant that is sought, law enforcement officers should consider, along with other relevant factors, the time of day that is most appropriate for service.
  7. Whenever the service of a search warrant may impact a minor, child protective services should be notified of that search warrant.
  8. Law enforcement bodies in the Commonwealth should adopt some form of a toolkit to guide the serving of search warrants. For a list of the items to be included in such a toolkit, the Search Warrant Task Force proposes that law enforcement bodies adopt some version of the model toolkit found in the report, which include “best practices” that may evolve to fit the needs of various localities.

The final report of the Task Force includes, among other things, the list of recommendations, a suggested toolkit for law enforcement, as well as a detailed recap of the Task Force’s work this year.

Following the conclusion of the 2021 General Session of the General Assembly, the Task Force held monthly meetings throughout the Commonwealth to review the search warrant process. Meetings were held in Frankfort, Richmond, Louisville, Bowling Green, and Somerset.  All meetings of the Search Warrant Task Force were open to the public and the press. All meetings were also livestreamed on the Attorney General’s official Facebook page.  Archived agendas and minutes from the meetings are available here.

To accomplish its work, the Task Force established three committees—the Securing Committee, Reviewing Committee, and Serving Committee—to present and discuss recommendations for improving the search warrant process. Each committee was charged with presenting its recommendations at a monthly meeting for further discussion, review, and approval by the Task Force.  The final recommendations, put forth by each committee, were discussed at the November 22, 2021 meeting and approved at the December 9, 2021 meeting. Each meeting also included a designated time for public comments.

The Task Force is chaired by Attorney General Cameron and is comprised of 18 members, including citizen members, representatives from the law enforcement community, legislators, judges, prosecutors, the Kentucky League of Cities, the Kentucky Association of Counties, the NAACP, and the public advocate.  The membership list can be viewed here.

To view the report, click here.

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED 5 P.M. DEC. 9, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – After months of study, Attorney General Cameron’s Search Warrant Task Force finalized ideas to make search warrants in kentucky safer and more effective.  Originally, Cameron set up the task force earlier this year in the wake of the death of Breonna Taylor in March 2020. She was shot by Louisville Police serving a no-knock search warrant.

On Thursday, a group of law enforcement officials, citizens and legal experts made adjustments and additions to several recommendations of the Task Force in Frankfort.  The recommendations ranged from requiring more search warrant training from the start of each officers careers to then annually to notifying child protective services prior to a search warrant. Those in law enforcement who were part of the process were in agreement that its now the time to make these adjustments

“I think it will help I think it should help and I hope to goodness that it does help and it is right,” says Sheriff Walt Sholar of the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office.

Throughout the afternoon, the task force looked at the search warrant process in the state. After a few hours of a thorough read through and some recommendations, the group highlighted, added and even removed some language from the document. Those who attended the meeting like Denise Bentley tells ABC 36 News that one of the important things she took away from being there was that a system can’t be one size fits all.

“What may work in Louisville or Lexington may not work in these smaller areas and so finding a happy medium so that we can still protect the public protect the police is a difficult task,” says Bentley.

After a few hours, The task force put the recommendations to rest for the night. But members of the group say that the work is far from done.

“We have to make sure that this information makes it to the General Assembly and the Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of Courts could be helping as well in terms of data collection,” says Attorney General Danielle Cameron.

Those who had a say tell ABC 36 News that they hope the work they did means change for the better.

“We’re hopeful here in the commonwealth that we can clean up some of the mess and move in the right direction so everybody’s safe,” Adds Bentley.

Attorney General Cameron says a new version of the document will be available to the public sometime this week.

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