Kentucky Politics

A bill creating new limits on no-knock search warrants could see significant revisions ahead of a vote in Kentucky’s House of Representatives.

A pair of proposed amendments sponsored by House Republicans and former police officers would expand the use of no-knock warrants, while a pair of amendments from a House Democrat would further curtail their use.

Opponents of the Republican amendments including the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, the Kentucky NAACP and Black Lives Matter Louisville say the revisions would allow law enforcement to recreate the circumstances that led Louisville police to shoot and kill Breonna Taylor in her home during a middle of the night raid last year. 

In the wake of Taylor’s death, the Kentucky Senate has passed Senate Bill 4, which would allow judges to issue no-knock warrants to police when there is “clear and convincing” evidence of violent crime. It would also limit police to executing those warrants between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

House Floor Amendment 2, sponsored by Republican Rep. John Blanton of Salyersville, would expand the time police could conduct search warrants until midnight and allow for police to wear alternative recording devices other than body cameras. It would also allow any officer to join in serving a no-knock warrant without special training when there are “exigent circumstances.”

House Floor Amendment 3, sponsored by Republican Rep. Chris Fugate of Chavies would allow judges to issue no-knock warrants for drug crimes, which is how officers justified the warrant for Taylor’s residence. 

Neither Republican House member immediately returned requests for comment. 

Black Lives Matter lobbyist Shauntrice Martin said the use of no-knock warrants for crimes involving drugs disproportionately affects Black people. Martin said extending the hours officers can conduct the raids would increase the risk of a fatal injury, and could result in further lawsuits. 

“In the last year alone, Kentucky has paid out millions of dollars in settlements due to no-knock raids,” Martin said. “These amendments will ensure that our already struggling state will continue to bleed taxpayer money.”

Kentucky NAACP President Marcus Ray said Senate Bill 4 would be a step in the right direction, but he remains concerned the amendments from Blanton and Fugate would dilute the bill. Ray said the language in Blanton’s amendment allowing any officer to participate in a raid would make them more dangerous. 

“Having been trained together is paramount to everyone’s safety because each person on a team has a responsibility on entry and they must all be well-trained on executing it,” Ray said. 

The current version of Senate Bill 4 would not go as far in limiting no-knock search warrants as Breonna’s Law for Kentucky, which would completely ban no-knock warrants. That bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Attica Scott of Louisville, would also create penalties for officers who don’t wear body cameras and require officers who fire their weapons to receive a drug test. 

House Floor Amendments 1 and 4 from Democratic Rep. Patti Minter of Bowling Green would limit the offenses for which police could use no-knock warrants, require officers to clearly identify their law enforcement agency and require a certified paramedic or similar personnel to be on standby during the execution of a no-knock warrant.

 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.