New Breonna Taylor Law Will Ban No-Knock Warrants in Louisville, Ky.


The Louisville Metro Council voted unanimously to ban no-knock search warrants after the police shot Ms. Taylor dead in her home in March.

By Alisha Haridasani Gupta and Christine Hauser

June 12, 2020

Photo: A mural in Louisville, Ky., depicting George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Mr. Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis in May, and Ms. Taylor was killed by the police in March. Credit…Erik Branch for The New York Times

Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, Ky., said that he would sign “Breonna’s Law” after city council members voted unanimously on Thursday evening to ban “no-knock” warrants, a controversial procedure that the city’s police force used during the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in March.

“I plan to sign Breonna’s Law as soon as it hits my desk,” Mr. Fischer said in a statement after the Metro Council vote. “I suspended use of these warrants indefinitely last month, and wholeheartedly agree with Council that the risk to residents and officers with this kind of search outweigh any benefit.”

In addition to barring the execution of warrants without knocking, the measure also sets new guidelines for other types of search warrants, according to a statement from the council. It requires that police officers have their body cameras on when conducting a search, and sets a minimum time period before and after the operation that the cameras must remain active.

“A few weeks ago, the community began to cry out for justice and change,” said Councilwoman Barbara Saxton Smith, a primary sponsor of the ordinance, after the vote. “You spoke, we listened, and tonight we took action.”

Ms. Taylor, 26, an emergency medical technician, was killed by the police on March 13, after three officers used a no-knock warrant to enter her apartment with a battering ram, during a late-night drug investigation. The officers shot Ms. Taylor at least eight times.

They have not been charged, fueling widespread protests in Louisville and in cities across the country, with many demonstrators holding up the stories of Ms. Taylor and other black people killed by officers to call for greater accountability for the police.

Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville speaking at a vigil held in Ms. Taylor’s memory.Credit…Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The Louisville Police say that they fired inside Ms. Taylor’s home only after they were first fired upon by Kenneth Walker, Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend. The police said Mr. Walker wounded one of the officers, who was hit in a leg.

In a 911 call just after the shooting, Mr. Walker told the dispatcher that “somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,” according to a recording released last month.

Mr. Walker was later charged with attempted murder of a police officer, though the charge was dismissed.

The police also say that, despite having a no-knock warrant, they knocked several times and identified themselves as officers with a warrant before entering the apartment. The police said that the officers then “forced entry into the exterior door and were immediately met with gunfire.” The officer who was wounded, and two others, then returned fire, the police said.

The three officers involved in the case — Jon Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove, and Brett Hankison — have been placed on administrative reassignment.

Months after the shooting, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that it had opened an investigation, and Gov. Andy Beshear said that local, state, and federal prosecutors should review the police investigation that took place.

On Wednesday, the Police Department released a four-page incident report of Ms. Taylor’s case but it contains minimal details, listing Ms. Taylor as a victim but saying “none” under the section for victim injuries. The report, first published by The Louisville Courier-Journal, also has a checkmark in the box designating “no” forced entry.

“This is unacceptable,” Mayor Fischer said on Twitter of the report. “It’s issues like this that erode public confidence in @LMPD’s ability to do its job, and that’s why I’ve ordered an external top-to-bottom review of the department.”

Protesters around the country have in recent weeks forced leaders to consider drastic changes to law enforcement, and called for defunding, downsizing or completely dismantling police departments.

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has proposed a bill similar to Breonna’s Law that would outlaw the use of no-knock warrants by federal law enforcement officers.

Once signed, Louisville’s new measure will require law enforcement authorities to knock on an entry door and announce themselves as having a search warrant. “Absent exigent circumstances, wait a minimum of 15 seconds or for a reasonable amount of time for occupants to answer the door, whichever is greater, before entering the premises,” it says.

Officers must have operating body cameras, activate them at least five minutes before executing the warrant, and leave them on for at least the same amount of time afterward, the measure says. All recorded data must be retained for five years, it adds.

Councilwoman Jessica Green said the approval of the ban by the council was the first of many steps to reform public safety laws. “Working with all my colleagues, this ordinance is a bipartisan effort for change,” she said in a statement.

“We must not forget Breonna Taylor,” she said. “We honor her with this new law and may this law prevent any future tragedies.”

Ms. Taylor’s family members welcomed the measure. “All she wanted to do was save lives,” her mother, Tamika Palmer, said at a news conference Thursday night. “With this law, she’ll get to continue to do that. She would be so happy.”


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