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No-knock warrant legislation has support, but new amendments are causing controversy

Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 10:09 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - In the year that’s followed the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor, legislation has passed all over the country, as cities like Louisville and states like Virginia and Florida have banned no-knock warrants.

That isn’t the case in Kentucky, where lawmakers are still trying to pass legislation. In the commonwealth, amendments to Senate Bill 4, which has passed the Kentucky Senate, are causing their own controversy. No knock warrants were created to help save lives in violent crimes like a hostage situation or kidnapping as police officers are allowed to enter a property without prior notification.

“You’re invading a person’s castle,” Louisville Metro Council President David James said, “so the law looks at that invasion by the government into a person’s home as something that’s pretty sacred.”

But when the war on drugs began, no knock warrants became less unique and more common. Officers and citizens started getting hurt. But after Taylor’s death, the City of Louisville banned them.

“I worked with Sen. (Robert) Stivers, and he created Senate Bill 4, which is a great bill,” James said.

James isn’t alone in backing the Republican Senate President. Stivers’ proposed SB 4 requires clear evidence that a violent offender or would-be violent offender is committing a crime to issue a no-knock warrant. Those warrants must be executed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. And officers must have body cameras rolling.

Groups like the NAACP, Kentucky Council of Churches and Black Lives Matter were on board, saying it was a step toward justice, until two controversial amendments appeared.

“One year later, Breonna Taylor’s home state continues to fail her,” said Marcus Jackson, of the ACLU of Kentucky.

The changes have been proposed by two lawmakers, both retired Kentucky State Police officers. House Floor Amendment 2, proposed by Rep. Jonathon Blanton, extends hours from 10 p.m. to midnight. Critics complain that people are sleeping after 10 p.m. It also allows use of audio recorders instead of video cameras.

Supporters of the amendment said officers in rural areas can’t afford body cameras. James, a former officer, doesn’t buy it.

“Body cameras are not that expensive,” he said. “You can get one for under $500.”

Critics say Amendment 3, proposed by Rep. Chris Fugate, takes all the teeth out of the bill because it puts non-violent drug offenses on the list for no-knock warrants.

“It means we’re back to using no-knock warrants for minor drug offenses and endangering people’s lives,” James said.

Added Shauntrice Martin, of Black Lives Matter Louisville: “To support these amendments seems an inclination for state lawmakers to see Black people and poor people as collateral damage. My son, my 7-year-old, is not collateral damage.”

WAVE 3 News called Fugate for comment, but did not hear back. Lawmakers could discuss the amendments and plan a roll call vote on the bill this week.

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