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Louisville To Pay $12 Million, Adopt Police Reforms In Breonna Taylor Death Settlement

Breonna Taylor memorial in Jefferson Square Park on 7/25/20.
Breonna Taylor memorial in Jefferson Square Park on 7/25/20.

The city of Louisville will pay $12 million to the family of Breonna Taylor and adopt several policing reforms to settle the family’s wrongful death lawsuit, the city announced Tuesday afternoon.

The city admits no fault in the settlement. The payment — the largest for police misconduct in city history — follows a months-long firestorm of protests, police reforms and demands for justice after the police shooting death of Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman and emergency room tech, who Louisville Metro Police officers shot and killed in March during an early morning raid at her apartment.

"Justice for Breonna is multilayered. What we were able to accomplish today through the civil settlement against the officers was tremendous, but it's only a portion of a single layer," said Taylor family attorney Lonita Baker. "It's important to note here that a financial settlement was non-negotiable without significant police reform."

Taylor’s death touched off a national reckoning over racism and police violence and prompted Louisville to ban “no-knock” search warrants. The city has already begun requiring officers to wear and use body cameras when serving warrants; the city has said there’s no footage available of Taylor’s shooting because the plainclothes officers weren’t wearing cameras.  Mayor Greg Fischer has also ordered a comprehensive review of the police department by an outside firm.

"Good officers appreciate sunlight on their work, and we will take several steps to shine that light," Fischer said.

New policing reforms announced Tuesday include an early warning system that tracks all "use of force" incidents and citizen complaints to flag officers with issues as well as the approval and review of search warrants by a commanding officer. He said they would also expand the random drug testing of officers and create new protocols for money seized as evidence.

Fischer said the city would also establish a housing credit program to incentivize officers to live in certain low-income census tracks, as well as create a program to include social workers at LMPD to provide assistance on certain runs.

As the civil suit closes, other investigations continue. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is investigating whether criminal charges will be filed against the officers involved in Taylor’s death, and a decision from his office is thought to be imminent.

The case is also being investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice.

During the Tuesday news conference announcing the settlement, Taylor family attorney Ben Crump clarified that the family was still calling for criminal charges to stem from the shooting.

"We want, at minimum, 2nd degree manslaughter charges," Crump said. "We want full justice for Breonna Taylor. Not just partial justice."

In brief but emotional remarks, Taylor's mother Tamika Palmer echoed that sentiment.

"As significant as today is, it’s only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna. We must not lose focus on what the real job is. And with that being said, it’s time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more,” Palmer said. “Her beautiful spirit and personality is working with all of us on the ground, so please continue to say her name.”

Since May, protesters have called for Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and detectives Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison to be fired and criminally charged for their role in Taylor’s death.

The three were serving a “no-knock” search warrant at Taylor’s home on March 13. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, has said he thought intruders were making their way into the home and fired a warning shot toward the door, hitting Mattingly in the leg. Officers fired in response and killed Taylor.

Hankison was fired in June, when the police chief called his conduct in the Taylor raid "a shock to the conscience." He fired his gun from outside the apartment through a patio door blocked by a curtain, according to LMPD.

Anti-violence activist Christopher 2X, who runs the nonprofit Gamechangers, said the historic size of the settlement was meaningful. Still, the payout doesn’t change the imperative for criminal justice, 2X said.

“For me it changes nothing. This is just one part of the process,” 2X said. “We have two more processes to go through,” he added, referring to the state and federal investigations.

In a statement, the social justice group Until Freedom said “true justice is not served with cash settlements” and called the payment the “bare minimum.”

Metro Council President David James said the council was not informed of the settlement ahead of time, but it does not require council approval.

This story has been updated.

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