Urban County Council members, police and many, many people in Lexington have spent nearly a year arguing about no-knock warrants— they’ve debated the merits of moratoriums versus bans, disagreed over whether they are an essential policing tool or a useful add-on and discussed the dangers they pose to both police and residents.
Enough. It is time for the council members to take a stand for racial justice and let the nearly 48,000 Black residents of this community know that they have listened to their concerns and they care enough to ban this rarely used police practice.
The vote “represents how serious we are about meaningful change in our community; it’s a symbol of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go,” University of Kentucky professor Gerald Smith said in a recent interview. A scholar, pastor and life-long resident of Lexington, Smith has spent his career researching Black history, particularly that of resistance and change. He and educator Roszalyn Akins chaired the Commission on Racial Justice and Equality, Lexington’s most recent blueprint to try to come to grips with its terrible history, and at the end, they concluded that although no-knock warrants were not part of a subcommittee report on police reform, “it would be prudent for the Mayor to also take action that bans these kinds of warrants as a show of support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and to eliminate the possibility of a similar crisis in the future involving the police and the Black community.”
As Smith said of the vote, “it’s a litmus test to everything that was contained within these recommendations. The council saying yes means we are turning a corner.”
We have outlined in these pages the numerous reasons council members should vote for a ban, not least of which it shows their courage and commitment to a new kind of policing, one that is based on listening to those who are most often the victims of police brutality. This vote won’t have the same far-reaching consequences as making sure all police turn on their body-worn cameras or more minority recruitment in the force. But it allows Lexington a fresh start with the community that it has so often marginalized, ignored and persecuted.
We urge those council members who voted for the ban on June 8 to stick with their first, courageous instincts and to ignore the petty politics and pressure campaigns that have swirled around them. We also urge those who voted no to reconsider this city’s history and their own moral codes as they ponder what they will do Thursday night. What use is political office if you betray your ideals to keep it?
As the meeting approaches, it’s rumored that some council members are working on a new measure, some compromise that they think will keep both the police and no-knock opponents happy. We urge them to abandon this effort and vote yes on the current version. Instead of thinking about the FOP’s social media account, think about George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the many others who died before cell phone cameras, before many white people believed that police brutality even existed.
It is time for Lexington to turn the corner on racial justice, and that means it’s time for the Urban County Council to take a stand. Vote yes on the no-knock warrant ban.