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Ordinance To Limit, Not Ban, No-Knock Warrants Passes Out Of Committee

J. Tyler Franklin

As the chair of the Metro Council's public safety committee presided over a virtual meeting from inside City Hall, a call and response was building on the street outside.

"No more! No knock!" was the cry of protesters seeking an end to the type of warrant issued for the raid that led to the death of Breonna Taylor, killed by Louisville police in March.

The ordinance that passed out of committee Wednesday did not fulfill that demand. Instead, the legislation, nicknamed "Breonna's Law," aims to limit cases in which no-knock warrants are used rather than banning them.

Keturah Herron, a field organizer for ACLU Kentucky, called for the council to end the use of these warrants.

"We want the tools LMPD uses not to harm the community but truly work to prevent and serve and build and repair relationships throughout Louisville," she said. "Now is the time to ban no-knock warrants."

Herron and the ACLU are hoping for statewide legislation that would deliver the ban they seek.

Later in the three-hour meeting, the committee voted 7-0 in favor of passing an ordinance that limits the use of no-knock warrants to "cases involving imminent threat of harm or death to law enforcement and/or to civilians, which shall be limited to the following offenses: murder, hostage taking, kidnapping, terrorism, human trafficking and sexual trafficking."

It would not allow such warrants in cases in which the only offense is drug-related, like the Taylor case. No drugs were found in Taylor's apartment and the primary target of the investigation was in custody around the time of the raid.

Council members had many questions, including about what authority they had to enforce such restrictions and the best parameters to set to produce safer outcomes. Committee chair Jessica Green (D-1), who co-sponsored the measure, said the group would hold a special meeting on Monday to work out more details of the legislation before bringing it to the full council for a vote on June 11.

"I don't think that it's perfect but we're not going to solve...everything in three hours, we're not going to solve everything in two, three weeks, even a month, six months," Green said. "But I do think it is very important for us to have something and to have a document to work from."

She said delaying a vote out of committee would not honor Taylor's memory.

Attorneys for Taylor's family have called for a total ban on no-knock warrants in Louisville.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Greg Fischer said he had not yet decided whether he will support Breonna's Law.

Fischer announced last week he was suspending no-knock warrants indefinitely, after the first night of mass protests in response to Taylor's killing by police. He said he supports an analysis of the pros and cons of banning no-knock warrants.

"We need to understand what the national best practice is behind this," he said. "Is there a rationale for using them under very special circumstances?”

Also on Wednesday, Fischer announced the city is issuing a request for proposals for a third- party, extensive review of the police department. He said it would focus on issues including training, use of force and bias in policing.

"The review will also identify any obstacles in implementing changes to improve in those areas," he said.

The deadline for submissions is June 12.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.