Following the shooting death of 26-year-old EMT Breonna Taylor, the Louisville Metro Police Department will tighten restrictions on the use of “no-knock” warrants, along with requiring police officers to wear body cameras in more situations.
Taylor was killed on March 13 in her apartment when police entered without announcing themselves. Her boyfriend — a registered gun owner — shot at the officers in what he believed was self-defense. The officers fired back, and Taylor was shot eight times.
Louisville mayor Greg Fischer announced during a press conference this week that "no-knock" search warrants will now need to be signed off on by the police chief before they go to a judge for approval. Officers had a no-knock search warrant approved the night they executed it at Taylor's home, Fischer said.
But according to The Washington Post, the warrant did not include Taylor's name and had been issued for a home nearly 10 miles away from her apartment complex. The officers were allegedly at the apartment looking for illegal drugs, which they did not find. Attorneys for Taylor’s family also claim the warrant was based on information officers had gathered two months before the raid, WLKY reports.
"Two months old. Anything could change. She could have moved out of that apartment based off of that search warrant," attorney Lonita Baker said.
Taylor’s family filed a lawsuit earlier this month claiming wrongful death, use of excessive force, and gross negligence on behalf of the officers. The family’s attorneys also called for an end to the use of “no-knock” warrants, a case they made before the Metro Council Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. "Narcotics investigations do not justify the risks associated with no-knock warrants,” Baker said.
Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Steve Conrad told WLKY that the department doesn’t track no-knock warrants, but that they represent a small percentage of the total number of search warrants the department executes. Of the 3,085 search warrants LMPD executed in 2019, only 22 of those were no-knock. In 2020, officers have executed only six no-knock warrants up to this point.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been stressing the dangers of no-knock warrants for decades. After a shooting death in Colorado, then-ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said in a press release, "No-knock warrants pose a danger to the lives of police officers as well as innocent civilians.”
Silverstein’s words also seem to foreshadow the situation in Taylor’s apartment that night. "If police do not successfully communicate their identity in the split-second when they kick down the door,” he said, “they are likely to encounter gunfire from citizens who believe they are justifiably defending their homes from lawless intruders."