The union that represents Lexington police officers blasted nine members of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council who voted Tuesday to ban no-knock warrants, saying they were pandering to “radically anti-police protesters.”
In Facebook posts, the Fraternal Order of Police Bluegrass Lodge #4 tied a rise in the number of shootings and murders this year to the vote to ban no-knock warrants. “City leaders are less concerned with your safety than they are with pandering to a small group of radically anti-police protestors,” one post read.
The council voted 9 to 6 on Tuesday to move an ordinance that bans no-knock warrants to its docket. A first reading of the ordinance was scheduled for later Thursday. A final vote was expected June 24.
In another Facebook post, the FOP tied two Wednesday murders to the vote on the no-knock ban.
“These shooting deaths came just hours after the Lexington City Council irresponsibly voted to ban no-knock warrants in Lexington. When it comes time for officers to arrest these murderers, do we really want to restrict the tools they have to apprehend the suspects safely?”
The FOP also posted photos of each of the nine council members who voted for the ban, saying they were: “ More interested in virtue signaling to the small group of radically anti-police protesters than caring about public safety, justice, or the lives of police officers.”
Those who voted for the ban include Vice Mayor Steve Kay and council members Chuck Ellinger, James Brown, Josh McCurn, Hannah LeGris, Liz Sheehan, David Kloiber, Jennifer Reynolds and Kathy Plomin.
Kay and other council members, for and against the ban, have said repeatedly that the decision on whether police should use no-knock warrants is not about being for or against police.
Kay declined to comment on the FOP’s Facebook posts on Thursday.
Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers has said Lexington police rarely use no-knock warrants that allow police to enter a home without announcing themselves. But police still need them on very rare occasions. They have been used four times over the past several years.
Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton issued a moratorium on no-knock warrants in June 2020. They can only be used — with Gorton’s permission — if it is a life or death situation.
The Lexington Herald-Leader obtained copies of those warrants in 2020. None were used to apprehend a murder suspect. All were drug related. The police department at first refused to turn over those records. It was only after receiving a letter from the Herald-Leader’s attorney that it did so.
In 2015, the city had to pay a homeowner $100,000 after police raided the wrong home during the botched execution of a no-knock warrant. Weathers, who was not police chief at the time, said during Tuesday’s council work session that the city not only changed its procedures after the botched raid but the reason police entered the wrong home, busted down an innocent homeowners’ door and put the homeowner in handcuffs was not connected to the no-knock warrant. There were errors in procedures that have now been fixed, Weathers said.
Black faith leaders criticize FOP ‘misinformation,’ rhetoric
Black faith leaders who have worked for more than a year for the city to ban no-knock warrants pushed back against the FOP’s rhetoric and attacks at a press conference Thursday.
“There is a concerted effort underway by the Fraternal Order of Police, as we speak, to paint council members who voted for this police reform, our group and others as supporting both criminals and the endangerment of our fellow citizens and police officers,” said Rev. Clark Williams, a member of the group.
“We are not the enemies of the Lexington police, and for the record, nobody wants Lexington to be safe for everybody more than we do,” Williams said. “But this form of misinformation and divisive rhetoric has no place in the legislative process, and it further demonstrates why we need a permanent ban on no-knock warrants.”
Williams also said the Black faith leaders understand that there are those that oppose the ban. That’s fine.
“To our elected officials who oppose the ban on no knocks, we understand, we disagree, and we are not your enemies,” Williams said. “But we do reserve the right to hold you accountable.”