Kentucky Politics

The Republican president of the Kentucky Senate filed a bill that would restrict “no-knock” search warrants, the type of warrant used in the Louisville police raid that killed Breonna Taylor last year.

Senate Bill 4 would still allow no-knock warrants to be issued in cases where someone allegedly committed a violent crime, or if giving prior notice would endanger someone’s life or result in the loss of evidence related to a violent crime.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said the Breonna Taylor raid wouldn’t have happened under his proposal.

“You’re not going to have a situation that occurred here that you’re going to create a no-knock search warrant to search for papers, stolen items, drugs, anything like that,” Stivers said.

“This is going to be related to potential violent situations, and that’s it.”

Louisville police shot and killed Taylor in her apartment in March 2020 while executing a search warrant related to a drug investigation. No drugs or cash were found at the apartment.

Louisville police detective Joshua Jaynes admitted in November some language he used to obtain the warrant was “incorrect.”

When a judge approves a no-knock warrant, Stivers’ bill would require specially-trained police officers like SWAT units to serve warrants, wear body cameras and only to enter property between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., except in some emergency situations.

The bill also requires police to get approval from a supervising officer and consult local prosecutors before serving warrants.

The measure is co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Reggie Thomas, of Lexington, and Republican Sen. Danny Carroll, a former police officer from Paducah.

But the proposal is drawing fire from Democratic Rep. Attica Scott, sponsor of Breonna’s Law for Kentucky, who said Stivers’ bill shows racial justice advocates are being “blatantly ignored in the political process.”

“This is part of that erasure of us and our work. It’s part of Kentuckians paying them to be blatantly racist, and I mean that with every fiber of my being,” Scott said.

“We’re closer to this pain, so we should be closest to the solutions.”

Scott’s bill goes farther than Stivers’; it includes a total ban on no-knock search warrants, creates penalties for officers who don’t turn on their body cameras and requires drug and alcohol testing of officers who fire their weapons.

Scott pre-filed her bill in August and says through multiple conversations, Stivers has had “no interest” in supporting her measure.

Scott’s bill has not been assigned to a committee in the Republican-led House.

Louisville Democratic Sen. Gerald Neal said he is still “scrutinizing” Stivers’ bill and that the legislature needs to look at other police accountability measures, too.

“There are a lot of issues out there, but I don’t think we’re going to get them all done in one gulp this session,” Neal said.

Stivers said he expected the bill to pass out of the state Senate by the end of the week. It will likely be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

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