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Kentucky attorney general establishes search warrant task force

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 11:45 PM EDT
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Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.(Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) – A task force to review how search warrants are executed and if any improvements should be made is in the works.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced plans for the search warrant task force on Thursday.

An Executive Order filed by Cameron’s office references the Fourth Amendment and states “the framers sought to protect the safety and liberty of citizens by ensuring that searches and seizures would be justified by probable cause, limited in scope and subject to independent judicial review.”

It continues by referencing of the Kentucky Constitution and stating Section 10 assures people “they will be free from all unreasonable search and seizure.”

The Executive Order says the death of Breonna Taylor and other recent events have brought up questions concerning the way search warrants are secured, reviewed, and executed. Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police Department officers who were serving a warrant at her home on March 13, 2020.

The task force will review and examine how search warrants are secured, reviewed, and executed in addition to training needs.

The task force will consist of the attorney general or his designee; two representatives of the Kentucky Court of Justice; the chairs of the judiciary committee of the Kentucky House of Representatives and the Kentucky Senate; a person appointed by the Fraternal Order of Police; a person appointed nu the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association; a person appointed by the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police; the commissioner of the Kentucky State Police of his designee; a person appointed by the Kentucky Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Association; a person appointed by the Kentucky County Attorneys’ Association; the public advocate or his designee; one person from the Kentucky League of Cities; one from the Kentucky Association of Counties, one appointed by the Kentucky Conference of the NAACP; the commission of the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training or his designee and three citizens appointed by Cameron.

The 18 member task force is expected to make recommendations for improvements and is set to conclude its work no later than Dec. 31.

Members of the Attorney General’s Task Force are:

  • Denise Bentley, Former Democrat Louisville Metro Councilwoman, Legislative Assistant to Metro Council District 5, representing citizens at-large
  • Lieutenant Bryan Bogard, Covington Police Department, representing the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police
  • Colonel Phillip Burnett, Jr., Commissioner, Kentucky State Police
  • Judge Foster Cotthoff, District Court Judge, 3rd Judicial District, Christian County, representing the Kentucky Court of Justice
  • Judge Charles Cunningham, Circuit Court Judge, 30th Judicial Circuit, Jefferson County, representing the Kentucky Court of Justice
  • Jeff Gregory, Mayor, City of Elizabethtown, representing the Kentucky League of Cities
  • Nicolai Jilek, Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training
  • Representative Ed Massey, Chair, House Judiciary Committee
  • Ramon McGee, Attorney, The Law Office of Ramon McGee, representing the Kentucky Conference of the NAACP
  • Chief Joe Monroe, University of Kentucky Police Department, representing the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police
  • David L. Nicholson, Circuit Court Clerk, Jefferson County, representing the Kentucky Association of Counties
  • Damon Preston, Public Advocate
  • Joseph Ross, County Attorney, Logan County, representing the Kentucky County Attorneys Association
  • Rob Sanders, Commonwealth’s Attorney, 16th Judicial Circuit, representing the Kentucky Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Association
  • Sheriff Walt Sholar, Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office, representing the Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association
  • Detective Elizabeth Thomas, Lexington Police Department, representing the Kentucky Narcotics Officers Association
  • Senator Whitney Westerfield, Chair, Senate Judiciary Committee
  • George Wright, Professor, Senior Advisor to the President, and Vice President for Institutional Diversity, University of Kentucky, representing citizens at-large

Ramon McGee, one of the task force members, is an attorney who describes search warrants as one of the most invasive tactics officers use.

“Remember that ultimately, a search warrant is — other than a physical arrest of a person — it’s the absolute most invasive intrusion of a citizen’s rights,” McGee said.

The search warrant process itself, McGee said, is vastly focused on low-income and minority neighborhoods, a perspective shared with fellow task force member Denise Bentley.

“We have state legislators, representatives, police, prosecutors, [and] attorneys,” Bentley explained of the group. “The dialogue will be fruitful... What needs to happen, what shouldn’t happen, and how do we fix it?”

The panel has not yet convened and there is no set-in-stone process regarding the authority the collective has on police policies and procedures.

McGee and Bentley believe the group’s creation is an initiative that can spark change statewide.

Of his involvement, task force member and Jefferson County Clerk David Nicholson sent a statement to WAVE 3 News:

“I am honored to represent the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) in this critically important endeavor. The time is right to conduct an in-depth review of the search warrant process. We need to leverage technology, build uniform applications and review all procedures to guide law enforcement and the judiciary in all counties. The citizens of Kentucky deserve no less.”

Other members of the task force that were unable to be reached for comment said anyone in the community that would like to voice their questions or concerns can call or e-mail the members.

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