A crowd of hundreds standing at the steps of Metro Hall fell silent as they listened to a live broadcast of Metro Council members casting their votes on an ordinance to ban no-knock warrants. One person in the crowd raised a fist, then another, then another. With each yes vote, another fist rose into the air until there were 26 and the crowd burst into applause for the unanimous vote approving Breonna’s Law.
After the cheers died down, 63-year-old Tempy Douglas repeated the phrase so often heard over the last two weeks: “Say her name.”
And the crowd responded: “Breonna Taylor!”
The vote came nearly three months after Taylor was killed by police during a middle-of-the-night raid for which the police had obtained a no-knock warrant. The ordinance also expands regulations of body cameras, to require all officers to wear and activate their body cameras while executing search warrants.
The officers who shot at Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who said he fired a warning shot at police because he believed them to be intruders, were not wearing body cameras. Their return fire struck Taylor eight times, killing her.
Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted after the vote that he will sign the ordinance as soon as it reaches his desk. Last week, he temporarily suspended no-knock warrants.
Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, appeared at the council meeting with two of her attorneys, Ben Crump and Lonita Baker.
“All Breonna wanted to do was save lives, so it’s important this law passes because with that she’ll get to continue to do that, even in her death,” Palmer said just before the vote.
Public pressure — from both locals and observers across the country — led to the ban of no-knock warrants in Louisville. A week ago, the council’s public safety committee approved a version of the ordinance that limited the warrants. All 26 members signed on as co-sponsors to the version that passed Thursday.
Councilwoman Jessica Green (D-1), who chairs the public safety committee, said after the meeting that her office had received almost 500 calls about the measure on Thursday alone.
The version of the ordinance voted on by the full body says,“No Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) police officer, Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC) officer, or any other Metro law enforcement or public safety official shall seek, execute, or participate in the execution of a no-knock warrant at any location within the boundaries of Jefferson County.”
Officers who violate the ordinance could be disciplined by written or verbal reprimand, suspension without pay or discharge.
The ordinance does not apply to the police forces of Jefferson County’s suburban cities, such as St. Matthews and Shively.
LMPD officials have said a no-knock entry is sometimes important to preserve evidence, particularly in narcotics cases. Representatives for the department did not respond to a request for comment after the vote.
Ryan Nichols, president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police, said he believed no-knock warrants could be safe if used properly. He said he saw the vote as a sign that the council doesn’t believe Fischer would keep his indefinite ban on no-knock warrants in place. Nichols has recently been critical of the mayor over his handling of the Taylor case and resulting fallout.
Nichols said he is aware some people have argued in favor of a ban on no-knock warrants.
“I still think they’re a valuable tool from the officer safety aspect,” he said.
A ‘First Step’ Toward Justice
Some have said such warrants put both officers and citizens at risk.
Crump, the national civil rights attorney representing Taylor’s family, said after the council meeting there’s more work to be done.
“This is but the first step in getting justice for Breonna Taylor,” he said. “We believe those officers should be terminated and that they should be charged for an unjustifiable, unnecessary and a senseless killing.”
Many responses to Fischer’s tweets saying he would sign the ordinance included asking him to fire and charge the officers who shot at Taylor: Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly, who was shot in the leg by Walker and recovered.
Shameka Parish-Wright, an operations manager with The Bail Project who was outside Metro Hall for the council meeting, agreed.
“They have to pay for that,” she said.
After the vote, in the street, ACLU of Kentucky policy strategist Keturah Herron celebrated.
“I’m excited that so many people now are understanding, are getting involved with democracy,” she said. “And so this part is hopeful, but it breaks my heart that it had to be surrounding the death of Breonna Taylor.”
State lawmakers are discussing no-knock warrants as well, and the conversation is also occurring on the national stage.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky introduced a bill to ban no-knock warrants nationwide, his office announced in a press release Thursday. He called it the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act.
“After talking with Breonna Taylor’s family, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s long past time to get rid of no-knock warrants. This bill will effectively end no-knock raids in the United States,” he said in a statement.
Last week, Paul blocked a federal bill that would have made lynching a hate crime.