Kentucky Politics

Protesters have been calling for a statewide ban on no-knock warrants in Kentucky after a Louisville police raid that led to the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26 year-old emergency room technician who was Black.

During a joint meeting of the Kentucky legislature’s judiciary committees on Thursday, lawmakers heard testimony about Taylor’s killing, racial discrimination and the massive protests that have taken place in Louisville and across the country.

Keturah Herron, with the ACLU of Kentucky and Black Lives Matter, said that lawmakers need to start passing laws that are “equal for all people.”

“Whether it’s tax reform, whether it’s in our criminal legal system, whether it’s in education. We have to start doing that,” Herron said.

During the protests, Louisville’s Black Lives Matter chapter has been calling for a local and statewide ban on no-knock warrants and the creation of citizen review panels that would have subpoena power to investigate law enforcement.

Louisville’s Metro Council public safety committee advanced an ordinance that would restrict no-knock warrants on Wednesday, though groups like Black Lives Matter say the measure needs to go farther and totally ban the policy.

During the committee hearing, Louisville Metro Council President David James, a Democrat, described the warrant that was used to justify the raid on Taylor’s apartment as “questionable.”

He said it was a mistake that officers didn’t have body cameras on during the raid.

“At the time when Louisville instituted the body camera policy, the narcotics unit did not want to have body cameras and the chief acquiesced to that. Bad decision. Because now we have no video tape,” James said.

Louisville Chief of Police Steve Conrad was fired on Monday following the police shooting death of David McAtee — another event where officials say officers involved either didn’t have body cameras on or they weren’t recording.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Republican from Crofton and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the legislature should take a look at banning the use of no-knock warrants and other policies.

“The use of force, the use of no-knock warrants, the use of body cameras, I’d be surprised if all those things didn’t show up in a number of different ways,” Westerfield said.

The legislature holds committee hearings in the summer, but won’t be able to consider bills until the next legislative session in January.

Democratic members of the legislature held a press conference after the meeting to advocate for restrictions on no-knock warrants, statewide regulations on body cameras and civilian oversight boards.

Rep. Reginald Meeks, of Louisville, said he hopes that the protests have raised awareness about inequality.

“It’s not just this issue, it’s a range of issues. A range of challenges that we face in our communities that we continue to bring up over and over. We will see in January whether or not they listen,” Meeks said.

Herron, with the ACLU and Black Lives Matter, said lawmakers can start by hearing bills proposed by black legislators.

“I know that Rep. Scott had a bill that was a simple bill, I felt like. It made sure that black folks and folks of color did not get discriminated against because of their hair. That bill did not get heard. And to me, that’s blatant disrespect. And that’s where we see the racism and the white supremacy,” Herron said.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.