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A group of Lexington Black faith leaders, who have pushed for 10 months for the city to ban no-knock warrants, sent letters to Mayor Linda Gorton and the 15-member Lexington council this week demanding to know their stance on the issue by May 15.
At a press conference last Thursday, the group called for action to be taken on banning no-knock warrants within 30 days. The group is also asking for all pending misdemeanor charges against racial justice protesters charged this summer to be dropped and more civilian oversight of police disciplinary matters.
On Wednesday, the group sent letters to Gorton and the council asking that they respond to this question:
“Will you support a permanent ban on no knock warrants, with no exceptions, by (signing/passing) an ordinance that includes this provision?”
The group also included a draft sample ordinance banning no-knock warrants.
“It could not be clearer that the possible benefits associated with executing no knock warrants are far outweighed by the potential loss of life and the community’s cry for police reform,” the ministers said in a statement.
Gorton issued a moratorium on no-knock warrants in June. No-knock warrants can still be used in rare, life-or-death situations if Gorton signs off on it.
Lexington police have maintained that they are rarely used but are still needed if someone’s life is at risk.
But Lexington has had its owns problems serving no-knock warrants. In 2015, police raided the wrong home during the execution of a no-knock warrant. Police put the innocent homeowner in handcuffs and busted the homeowners’ door. The city paid the homeowners $100,000, according to documents the Lexington Herald-Leader obtained through an Open Records Act request. Police changed how they executed no-knock warrants after the 2015 incident.
The council has placed the issue of no-knock warrants in a council committee. The committee started discussions on the topic last summer but halted those discussions to determine if the state General Assembly was going to address a state-wide ban.
Gorton said she expects the council to revisit the issue soon.
“Council member James Brown will be bringing this issue before a council committee in the next few weeks,” Gorton said. “I think it is important to give council an opportunity to consider this. I have been in discussions with Council member Brown on how to proceed for some time. We were watching to see what the state did before we moved forward. My moratorium on no knock warrants still stands.”
Earlier this year, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 4, which put some limitations on no-knock warrants but did not ban them.
“Senate Bill 4 falls far short of even adequately restricting the use of no-knock warrants, let alone banning them,” said Rev. C.B. Akins at Thursday’s press conference.
In letters to the council and the mayor, the group said: “As we take this stand on behalf of almost 48,000 black Lexingtonians and tens of thousands of additional citizens seeking racial justice, it is apparent that we must do more than merely call for this change. So, we have drafted a sample ordinance that is attached. It is our firm expectation that immediate steps will be taken towards passing this local legislation between now and May 15.”
Louisville banned the use of no-knock warrants last year in the wake of the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Louisville police during the serving of a botched no-knock warrant in March.
The ministers said they will report the status of where the mayor and the council stands on the issue after May 15.