‘We have been more than patient.’ Black leaders again demand local ban on no-knock warrants.
A group of Black faith leaders on Thursday called on Lexington city leaders to enact a local ban on no-knock warrants in 30 days, demanded charges against racial justice protesters be dropped and renewed calls for civilian participation in police disciplinary actions.
The group also asked the Fayette County Public School system, which is currently looking for a new superintendent, to recruit candidates with a proven track record in urban school districts with a diverse student population.
The General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year that restricted no-knock warrants. However, the bill allows for the practice—which allows police to enter a residence or a business without knocking — if there is clear and convincing evidence the crime alleged would qualify a person as violent and still allows in certain circumstances for those no-knock warrants to be executed in the middle of the night.
“Senate Bill 4 falls far short of even adequately restricting the use of no-knock warrants, let alone banning them. So, we are calling on the mayor and city council to do what the state legislature did not do,” said C.B. Akins, now retired pastor of First Baptist Church Bracktown.
It’s been 10 months since Black faith leaders marched down Main Street to city hall to deliver a letter to Mayor Linda Gorton, demanding a ban on no-knock warrants among other changes. The ban was requested after the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed by Louisville police during the serving of a no-knock warrant in March 2020. Gorton issued a moratorium on no-knock warrants in June. But that moratorium also allows Gorton to sign off on a no-knock warrant if there is a life or death situation.
‘We have been more than patient’
Lexington police have maintained no-knock warrants are rarely used but necessary in life or death situations.
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.
“We have been more than patient,” Akins said. “Today we call on Mayor Gorton and the city council to take immediate steps to pass an ordinance that will permanently ban the use of no-knock warrants.”
The group would like to see movement on an ordinance in the next 30 days.
Rev. Clark Williams said the group wants no exceptions to the ban. Exceptions allow for subjectivity. That subjectivity typically is used against people of color, he said.
Akins said they have a meeting with Gorton on Friday.
The group already has drafted a proposed ordinance that it will share with Gorton and the 15-member Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council.
Drop charges against racial justice protesters
The group also joined the local NAACP in asking Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts drop all pending charges against racial justice protesters who were arrested in June and July during protests downtown.
More than a dozen protesters still face misdemeanor charges related to the protests ranging from inciting a riot and resisting arrest to disorderly conduct.
Charges against racial justice protesters in other cities, including Louisville, have been dropped, faith leaders said.
Those protests spurred the creation of Mayor Gorton’s Racial Justice and Equality Commission, which released 54 recommendations in October.
“The actions of the protesters who have been charged did not lead to thousands storming a government building,” Akins said, referring to the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by a largely white crowd. “Their actions did not lead to the destruction of property. Their actions did not lead to the loss of life.”
Allow more civilian oversight of police discipline
The group also urged the city to include civilians in police disciplinary cases. The city is currently negotiating a new contract with the Fraternal Order of Police. The group asked that the contract include language that allow civilians to be part of disciplinary review.
To get a Fayette County civilian police review board, state law has to be changed. That did not happen this legislative session.
However, there is an internal police disciplinary board, currently made up of upper-level police command staff, that can make recommendations to Chief Lawrence Weathers on police disciplinary matters. Others have proposed putting civilians on that internal police disciplinary board.
However, that is something that the FOP would have to agree to as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. A timeline on when the collective bargaining agreement will be completed is not known.
“We strongly urge Mayor Gorton and the council not to enter into a new collective bargaining agreement that places constrains on the city’s ability to maximize civilian participation during the police disciplinary process,” Akins said.
Fayette County Public Schools is now a majority minority district —46.9 percent of public school students are white. Yet, the Fayette County School Board is all white. The school system is currently engaged in a nationwide search to replace late superintendent Manny Caulk, who died unexpectedly in December. The group wants a superintendent that has experience with a diverse student population.
“The next superintendent must come into the position possess a proven track record of success, generating equitable results as a superintendent in a diverse urban school district,” Akins said.