Ordinance banning no-knock warrants introduced in Lexington

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 10:23 AM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The debate about the use of no-knock warrants in Lexington came up during a Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council committee meeting on Tuesday.

Councilmember James Brown introduced an ordinance that would ban no-knock warrants.

“I think we were waiting to see what was going to happen on a national level, on the date level, and then what other opportunities existed on a local level,” Brown said.

The ordinance would ban Lexington police from using no-knock warrants anywhere in Fayette County. Brown says he drafted the ordinance with input from the city’s law department, Lexington police chief, and local black faith leaders.

“We feel it’s something that absolutely needs to get passed. We hope that it can be passed,” said Rev. Clark Williams, Shiloh Baptist Church. “We will just rely on our elected officials to do something that shows that they are hearing the calls and cries of the people.”

The drafted ordinance (read below) also sets standards for executing search warrants. It would require police to knock on the door and announce their presence when executing a search warrant. Police must also wait at least 15 seconds before entering the premises. All officers involved in executing the search warrant must activate their body cameras.

Mayor Linda Gorton placed a moratorium on no-knock warrants last summer during nationwide protests calling for racial justice and police accountability following the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers has expressed support for no-knock warrants, saying that in some cases they are necessary. The department says it has served four no-knock warrants since 2016.

During Tuesday’s meeting, he urged council members to not ban them.

“In the past, yes, they may have been served just to gather evidence. But that’s not why they’re served. That’s not why they’re issued,” Weathers said. “It’s strictly for the safety and protection of people on both sides of the door.”

According to the Herald Leader, in 2015, Lexington police raided the wrong home while executing a no-knock warrant. The city paid the homeowners $100,000, according to documents the newspaper obtained through an open records request.

The chief said since then, his department has issued four no-knock warrants, all of which he said were successful without injuries.

Following his remarks, the committee voted to have the drafted ordinance reviewed by the full council.

Councilman Brown says, if passed, the ordinance could go into effect as soon as July 1. He says, by then, all Lexington police will have body cameras.

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