A police union’s moves in court to block Lexington’s no-knock warrant ban undermines citizens’ input on how they want to be policed, according to a group of Black faith leaders who pushed for the prohibition for more than a year.
The Fraternal Order of Police Bluegrass Lodge 4 filed the lawsuit this week in Fayette Circuit Court to challenge the ban and its immediate implementation.
“The ability of Lexingtonians to influence how we are policed is fundamental to the kind of community policing that will be necessary to curb criminal activity in our city,” said Rev. Clark Williams, one of the Black faith leaders who pushed the city to ban no-knock warrants for more than a year. “Unfortunately, the FOP does not seem to appreciate that reality. Hopefully, the courts will agree that the city cannot collectively bargain that ability away. It’s time to move on to the next steps in achieving racial justice and equity.”
The FOP filed the lawsuit this week in Fayette Circuit Court. The FOP says the ban on no-knock warrants should have been negotiated with the police union. The union also alleged banning the warrants — that allow officers to enter a location without knocking — is unsafe.
The FOP contract between police officers and the city is currently being negotiated.
Union President Jeremy Russell allegedly emailed Mayor Linda Gorton and council members twice and “demanded” that no-knock warrants be collectively bargained between the union and the local government, according to the lawsuit. The union said in its lawsuit that Russell didn’t receive any response after the first email.
Russell received a response to his second email: “LFUCG is not required to bargain the ordinance banning no-knock warrants,” according to the lawsuit.
The city doesn’t comment publicly on lawsuits.
April Taylor, one of the leaders of LPD Accountability, which is a police accountability group in Lexington, said potential legal concerns with the ordinance had already been addressed. Councilman James Brown “highlighted that the ordinance had been vetted by the city’s law department and did not require collective bargaining consideration” during a city council work session, Taylor said.
“Just as we have seen the FOP make personal attacks against citizens who dare to call for greater accountability and transparency within the Lexington Police Department, we are now seeing them take cheap shots at city council by wasting their time with irrelevant litigation that is only meant to intimidate and silence city officials,” Taylor said.
She also said the lawsuit was a “tactic” and an attempt to “silence and intimidate anyone who dares to act in the interest of accountability and transparency.”
The local Fraternal Order of Police on Thursday targeted protesters on social media. They called out activists by name and said those individuals were “the loudest voices are in the ears of the mayor and city council.”
“Their overwhelming bias and hatred towards your police officers is disgusting and not representative of the sensible members of the community who care about public safety,” the union said.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted 10 to 5 on June 24 to ban no-knock warrants. The ordinance also requires officers serving knock-and-announce warrants wear body cameras. Mayor Linda Gorton signed the ordinance into law on June 25.
The lawsuit asked for an immediate injunction to block the ordinance from taking effect. A court date has not yet been set.