An ex-police officer sent a long and thoughtful email to me questioning the reasons for my support for the proposed Ordinance now before Urban County Council that would ban the use of no-knock warrants.
In my time on Council few issues have been this controversial or this divisive. That suggests to me that there are underlying issues for which this particular issue stands as a placeholder. I believe the controversy is rooted in the long-standing concern that the Black community has been over-policed. It is also about the underlying relationship between the police and the Black community. That is a larger issue that cannot be address fully here. Rather, I want to focus on the issue itself, because that is what the Council will have to make a decision about very shortly.
In his email the ex-police officer asks if the Lexington Police Department has done something so egregious that this tool should be taken away from them.
His question made me realize that it might be helpful to explain my thinking about this issue. Most importantly, I believe the Lexington Police Department has earned and deserves our full support, and I regret that he views this proposed action as punitive. It is not meant to be. But under our system of governance it is the responsibility of Council to ensure that the tools used for policing are acceptable to the community. Many tools previously used by police have come to be viewed as unacceptable and have been banned. The use of chokeholds is the most recent, highly visible example.
He also mentions the many ways our police force works to build trust with our residents, especially those in the Black community. I am familiar with those efforts and I applaud them. I have seen how effective they can be in my own and in surrounding downtown neighborhoods. I believe banning no-knock warrants is the most significant way to reinforce those efforts and to continue building the trust necessary for effective policing. I have frequently heard this from many constituents, but most clearly from the leadership in the Black community.
In sum, after informing myself as best I can about the serious reasons for and against, I conclude that banning no-knock warrants is in the best interest of our community.
My colleagues on council have looked at the same set of information. They have thoughtfully considered the many legitimate reasons to support or oppose the proposed ordinance. Some of them agree with my conclusion. Some of them come to a different conclusion. That’s fine. Whether we differ or agree, I respect the judgment and the decision of each of my colleagues. I ask our community to do the same.
Vice Mayor Steve Kay is a council at-large member of the Lexington Fayette Urban County Council.