In Honor of Breonna Taylor: We Support Banning No Knock Warrants in KY by passing Senate Bill 4 & House Bill 21
By: The Members and Advocates of the Black Women’s Player Collective
Saturday, March 13th marks one year since the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old, unarmed black woman, killed in her home during the execution of a no-knock search warrant. Last March, the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) forced entry into Breonna’s apartment unannounced. The police had no reason to believe anyone inside posed any imminent danger but were instead looking for evidence of drugs related to a separate narcotics investigation. Upon LMPD’s entry, Breonna’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker — a lawful gun owner — fired a single shot to warn whom he understood to be intruders. LMPD Police fired 32 rounds into the apartment without identifying a single target. Breonna was shot five times and killed while she was heading towards the door. The only charges brought against any officer were for recklessly shooting into her neighbor’s apartment. One year since this tragic event, Breonna Taylor is still without justice.
In honor of Breonna Taylor, it is critical the Kentucky legislature ends the use of no-knock warrants with the passage of Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 21 that have been introduced in the state. Senate Bill 4 bans no-knock warrants in all but extremely limited circumstances — including when giving notice could threaten the life of someone inside. This bill also requires the use of body cameras before entering while mandating stiff penalties for police who provide false information to obtain a no-knock warrant. House Bill 21 goes further by banning all no-knock warrants without exception and also eliminating qualified immunity, a doctrine that effectively bars victims of police abuse from receiving financial recourse for their losses in civil court.
We stand alongside Breonna Taylor’s family in support of both bills and recognize their passage as a necessary step in preventing future tragedies such as this one. Despite claims from some tough-on-crime adherents, no-knock warrants are not necessary to protect public safety — the Fourth Amendment has always permitted police entrance in the event of a true emergency. Additionally, no-knock raids rarely result in police recovering otherwise unobtainable evidence. A 2014 ACLU study, corroborating research by Eastern Kentucky University criminology professor Dr. Pete Kraska, found that police utilized the no-knock raid approach at least 60,000 times annually. In these instances, police rarely were pursuing a person who posed an imminent danger but instead were looking for drugs and often disproportionately targeting people of color.
No-knock raids are frightening for all, but especially for those on the receiving end of them: in most cases, police storm into a home, usually at night, sometimes dressed in SWAT riot gear, and frequently engage in an immediate show of lethal force. In a country where gun ownership is ubiquitous and people are lawfully permitted to protect their homes from suspected intruders, these no-knock entrances create the perfect storm to end in senseless death.
On March 13, Breonna Taylor became one of the more than 81 people killed during the execution of no-knock warrants since 2010. The list includes civilians, police, and even young children like seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Inaction by the Kentucky state legislature is a disservice to all those who have been killed during these raids. We hope you will join us as we call on leaders in both the Kentucky State House and the Senate to pass both bills, and then to continue working toward a more just, less brutal system of policing in America.
Ask your Senate and House representative to vote YES on SB4 and HB21 to curtail the use of deadly no-knock warrants. Call the Kentucky State Legislature Message Line at 1–800–372–7181 and honor Breonna Taylor.