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Breonna Taylor killing spurs action against no-knock warrants

By Lindsey Van Ness, Stateline.org on

Published in News & Features

Emmanuel Remy and his children looked out of their Columbus, Ohio, home window one morning last November to see a dozen tactical officers in their yard.

The officers were preparing to serve a warrant for the previous residents — suspected drug dealers. In the five months since Remy had bought the property, detectives already had shown up with warrants three times. The officers' early morning attempt, this time with a battering ram, showed him how wrong warrants can go.

"They didn't even do a simple address search to see that the property had transferred," recalled Remy, a Democratic member of the Columbus City Council.

Then in March, a Louisville, Kentucky, police officer shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, during a late-night raid at her apartment on suspicion that another person kept drugs there.

Amid national calls for policing changes, Remy decided to sponsor a city ordinance to limit no-knock warrants, the kind that police obtained to enter Taylor's home. The council unanimously passed it, and the mayor signed it.

Now Columbus police officers can use no-knock warrants only for higher-level felonies. The police chief must approve all requests. Officers must conduct at least two hours of surveillance beforehand. And body-worn cameras must be activated.

 

"We determined that it was probably a tool they needed access to," Remy said, "but there were enough safeguards in place that it wouldn't be frivolously done."

Like Columbus, more than two dozen state and local jurisdictions have introduced or finalized policies to restrict the use of no-knock warrants since June. Virginia just joined Florida and Oregon in banning the practice entirely, after the governor signed a recently approved bill this week.

"This legislation, it allows (Breonna Taylor's) name, her story to literally be a catalyst of dismantling systems that have been in place and have been causing harm to our, by 'our' I mean Black and brown, communities," said Virginia state Del. Lashrecse Aird, a Democrat who introduced the bill.

But some lawmakers and police groups oppose banning no-knock warrants, saying they are useful in dangerous situations.

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