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Ky. Senate President Working On Bill To Ban Most ‘No-Knock’ Warrants

LRC Public Information

  Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers says he is working on a bill that would ban most no-knock warrants in the state—the process that Louisville police used to raid Breonna Taylor’s apartment in March.

Police shot and killed Taylor during the raid, prompting massive protests in Louisville and across the country.

Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said that legislation would include exceptions, allowing no-knock warrants to be issued in hostage situations. But he said that the bill would ban the warrants from being used in cases like Taylor’s.

“A no-knock warrant at 1:00 at night, that’s bad policing,” Stivers said. “A no-knock warrant in general is not good.”

Stivers said his bill isn’t finalized, but he also wants to include restrictions on how police seek warrants—requiring them to disclose if a request for a warrant has previously been denied when seeking a judge’s approval.

He also said it would waive qualified immunity for officers if they engage in “gross or wanton negligence, or willful misconduct” in incidents involving search warrants.

Sen. Gerald Neal, a Democrat from Louisville, said he supports the effort to ban no-knock warrants, but that the legislation needs to go further.

“Obviously, there’s a lot more to be done besides no-knocks. But no-knocks is symbolic of what’s stimulated the reactions in Louisville and across the nation, quite frankly, and around the world,” Neal said.

Neal said he wants the legislature to discuss a statewide ban on choke-holds, encouraging de-escalation tactics for police, independent reviews of police misconduct and better reporting to the public about police data.

Stivers’ bill comes after Louisville’s Metro Council passed a law banning no-knock warrants last month.

Democrats in the legislature have already voiced support for the no-knock warrant ban and policies like citizen review panels and more regulations on police body cameras.

Sen. Danny Carroll, a Republican from Paducah and retired police officer, said he’s “not completely sold on totally doing away with search warrants with no-knocks.”

“There are times, if you’re working a homicide case, that you may have probable cause to believe that a weapon is in a particular residence. You may not have probable cause to arrest the occupant of that residence, so it could very obviously be a high-risk situation for the officers,” Carroll said.

Carroll said he does support requiring a higher level of proof in order to obtain a no-knock warrant.

The legislature’s next session begins in January 2021.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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