Despite the grand jury’s ruling, this is far from over Thursday, Oct 8 2020 

By Catherine Brown-

A grand jury convened to determine whether LMPD officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove would be under indictment for the murder of Breonna Taylor. On Sept. 23, the jury charged only one officer, Hankison, with three counts of wanton endangerment.

This means that the officer is accused of endangering Taylor’s neighbors when he shot into the surrounding apartment walls. No officer was charged for killing Taylor, an innocent black woman who was asleep in her bedroom.

The protests following her death have made an impact on some policy. Since protests have started, we’ve seen progress in getting justice for Breonna Taylor and for the Black community of Louisville.

Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, tweeted a list of impacts that protests have made in Louisville.

In this list, she includes the exiting of former Police Chief Robert Schroeder, who was replaced by interim Police Chief Yvette Gentry. Gentry is the first black female police chief for the LMPD, a point which Reynolds notes in her list.

“I know some want total defunding but whatever exists in this country should include us,” Reynolds said.

She also lists that LMPD is receiving a top to bottom review, and body cameras are now mandatory for search warrants.

Additionally, social programs are being implemented for the west end. These programs will build 100 homes in the west end for Black homeowners. Reynolds says corporations are even donating gifts to support rebuilding in the area. Social workers are also becoming involved in family resettlement.

These are just a few of the progressions made for the local community.

Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott and her daughter Ashanti, a political science major at U of L, were arrested after demonstrating in a Breonna Taylor protest on Sept. 24. Scott recently introduced “Breonna’s Law,” which seeks to ban no-knock warrants in Kentucky.

The two were participating in the protest and were seeking sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church, a church in downtown Louisville that was open after curfew. Houses of worship were exempt from the curfew policy.

Scott said she was arrested at 8:58 p.m., curfew started at 9 p.m.

“There was never a need for no-knock search warrants like the one used in Breonna’s case, and while this type of warrant is now banned here in Metro Louisville and appears to have little use elsewhere, I want to make sure statewide law keeps it from ever coming back. In addition, I want to make sure a judge specifically approves any use of violent entry when a warrant is carried out, and I want all law enforcement officers to have to wear body cameras and be required to use them when serving any warrant.”

In the law, she states videos would have to be made available when complaints are filed. Those that violate these requirements will face suspension or even termination. She always wants law enforcement officers to undergo a drug and alcohol screening after a deadly incident or firing a weapon while on duty.

We have quite a long way to go until justice is ever met though. Hankison was only in jail for a little more than half an hour. Due to the double jeopardy defense, he will not be brought back to trial for re-sentencing on the same charge as before. But the public understands that the murder of a black woman not only in Louisville, but anywhere in the world, will not be tolerated nor will we forget the crime.

Breonna deserves justice. Don’t stop saying her name and continue fighting.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L has double standards when it comes to protests Thursday, Sep 3 2020 

By Zachary Baker–

This year has been a chaotic year for many of us, but especially so for the African American community. With the many killings of unarmed people by the police, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been in the national spotlight. Louisville has seen months of protests demanding justice for the killing of Louisville resident Breonna Taylor by the Louisville Metro Police Department. 

One of the protests, held right by Cardinal Stadium on Aug. 25, had an interesting response from the U of L administration which seemed almost hypocritical to their statements of support for the movement. 

When the group of protesters formed sometime after 3 p.m., several emails went out through the university’s RAVE system—normally used to alert students to robberies or other dangers on campus. 

The university sent the emails to alert students to the protests forming. They recommended students and faculty avoid the area. 

“University leadership has been monitoring the news surrounding potential upcoming protests in our city, including a planned demonstration today at 2 p.m.,” President Bendapudi wrote in an email to students Aug. 25.

The emails that followed were to ensure that students were aware of law enforcement presence in the area and that arrests were made—though the protest remained peaceful. The emails came in one after another so that students were frequently updated. There were a total of 4 emails. 

While this may not seem like too much of an issue, it is a strange position to take. They’re telling students to “avoid the area” of a protest against police violence while also defending the position of the protestors. 

But let’s compare this protest to the primarily-white gun march on campus in 2017. The gun march saw students carrying semi-automatic rifles around campus in the wake of several mass shootings across the campus and even the deaths of students around campus from gun violence. 

The university’s approach was to keep young children inside. But they did not warn the campus of any dangers around the event despite the involvement of weapons.

In fact, the campus did not limit the protests too much. Matthew Glowicki, a writer for The Courier-Journal, wrote that people drove by honking or showing support for the march.

Shelby Brown, former Louisville Cardinal Editor-in-Chief said that students were concerned by the march, with several people believing the march was to intimidate students on campus and to show a sense of dominance with the weapons. 

Despite the gun march’s involvement of active weapons and close proximity to campus, it was treated similarly to how we allow religious groups on campus to operate. Compare that reaction to how the university treated the BLM protest by Cardinal Stadium. The university treated it as if it was a danger to students and required immediate police intervention. 

We can’t be sure that this difference is due to the racial differences or the change in the administration since then. But the difference between the public language of the university when promoting racial justice and their language when alerting students to racial protests on campus is concerning.

We can hope that the university considers how the differences in their language affects how the student body trusts them and their actions.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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On Last Day Of BreonnaCon, Protesters Look For ‘Good Trouble’ Tuesday, Aug 25 2020 

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The final day of “BreonnaCon” culminated in the arrests of 64 protesters calling for justice for Breonna Taylor during a sit-in on an overpass near Churchill Downs on Tuesday. 

The national civil rights group Until Freedom organized the day’s action and the events leading up to it to raise awareness about Taylor’s death. Louisville Metro Police Department officers shot and killed Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, in March while serving a “no-knock warrant.” 

Protest organizers hinted they would march on LMPD’s training academy in South Louisville ahead of Tuesday’s march, but changed course mid-protest and marched to Churchill Downs before continuing on to an overpass across from Cardinal Stadium.


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U of L responds to protest concerns Tuesday, Aug 25 2020 

By Eli Hughes — 

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi and Provost Beth Boehm sent an email to the U of L community Aug 25 responding to concerns over protests that could potentially interfere with campus operations.

The protests are in response to the killing of Breonna Taylor by police officers in March and have been organized by Until Freedom, a social justice organization based out of New York.

The protesters plan to march from South Central Park to the Louisville Metro Police Training Academy from 2-5:00 pm. This path has the possibility of intersecting with roads near U of L’s main campus.

“University leadership has been monitoring the news surrounding potential upcoming protests in our city, including a planned demonstration today at 2 p.m. near Taylor Boulevard which may cause traffic concerns for some near Belknap Campus,” the pair said in the email.

“We’ve been in close touch with local officials and, based on the information we have at this time, U of L operations will continue as normal unless individuals have received other instructions from their dean or supervisor. ”

All businesses in the Student Activities Center closed at 11:00 a.m. due to protest concerns.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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Louisville Protests Bring New Attention To Racial Trauma Monday, Aug 24 2020 

J.J. Hayden says this is the worst summer of his life. 

He’s wearing a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt with the painted faces of Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and many more Black victims of police brutality that he’s spent this summer protesting for.

J.J. is 13. He’s already tired.

J.J. has learned that even children like him are no exception to police brutality, and the stories of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice serve as a scary reality for him. He knows he cannot play with toy guns, or wear a hoodie. The story of Breonna Taylor’s death here in Louisville makes him worry that his sister could get shot in the privacy of their own home.

“Someone in my family could be that person, or I could be that person,” J.J. said. 

Jess Clark

Thirteen-year-old J.J. Hayden leads a kids’ march for racial justice.

Earlier this summer, J.J. hosted his own children’s march in response to seeing his mother and other adults having their own protests. He told his mom that children his age were upset too, and have their own fears.

“I’m scared to walk home,” he said. “It’s a good thing that my bus stop isn’t too far from my house.”

Like many children in Louisville this summer, J.J. has seen his hometown on the national news and the National Guard patrolling the streets. He’s also grieving the recent loss of his father and dealing with the effects of COVID-19. But the racial injustices exposed this summer alone would have been traumatizing enough. 

He’s experiencing what Dr. Steven Kniffley calls racial, or race-based, trauma: the direct, perceived, or exposure to a threat of danger that is solely tied to a person’s racial background and their experiences with discrimination and microaggressions. 

It’s a term that’s getting more attention after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor; Kniffley, an associate director for Spalding University’s Center for Behavioral Health, hosted a town hall along with Mayor Greg Fischer to discuss it earlier this month. He says that racial trauma is a public health issue throughout the nation, and should be treated that way.

“The ways in which racial trauma manifests in terms of your psychological, physical [and] emotional symptoms is no different than how traditional PTSD shows up,” said Kniffley. “One can experience trauma for a variety of different reasons, but only persons of color can experience trauma based on their racial background.” 

The state’s minority health status report in 2017 found that, when Kentuckians were asked to self-report the number of days in the past month in which their mental health was not good, Hispanic and Black residents reported the highest rates, respectively.

The effects start early: Kniffley says that as early as age 3, children of color begin to understand they’re different. A year or two later, they begin to assign value to their race. And soon after that, Kniffley says, children of color have already started to internalize racism. By school age, children of color likely have mostly white teachers — and more opportunities for race-based trauma emerge.

“There’s a box that we have to fit into, and if you don’t fit into that box then there is something wrong with you and you are policed based on that,” said Kniffley. “If we think about Black males, we are taught that we must be dumb, deviant and dangerous individuals. So if I’m in the classroom and I happen to excel academically, I have to hide that from my peers, because being seen as smart is something that’s considered white people do.”

Kniffley says that these conflicting images often lead children to question if their Blackness is “all good or all bad.”

“There’s this thread of internalized racism where they have to think about, are these [victims of police violence] really that bad? Do they deserve to be killed? And if so, what does that mean for me? Does that mean that I’m also a bad person?”

J. Tyler Franklin

J.J. Hayden and his family speak to a WFPL reporter.

J.J.’s mother, Katrice Gills, would have liked to shield her son from the video of George Floyd pinned under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. 

Gills was unaware that his friends already shared it with him. 

“I would never ever have allowed him to watch that if I had known because that is traumatizing,” said Gills. 

But as a 13-year-old who is active on social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, it is hard to constantly monitor what J.J. sees.

And Gills knows the media he consumes can be very harmful for children’s understanding. 

“When I was coming up, we thought of the police and firefighters as heroes,” Gills said. “They were supposed to protect us, and for my son to be 13 and that’s his biggest fear, that’s a problem to me.” 

Gills has also brought J.J.’s younger brother to the caravan protests. J.J. says that he knows his 3-year-old brother is starting to understand his Blackness despite his young age, and he’s picking up more than they thought.

“I’m pretty sure he knows about police brutality. One time we were actually at the protests and he said, ‘I can’t breathe’ once… my mind is just like, oh my god, you know? …he knows what that means. Even though he’s 3, he’s very much awake.”

A Generational Conversation

The current events have forced Michelle Randolph, a Louisville mother to 5 and 6 year-old Black daughters, to figure out a way to tell them a version of the truth they can understand.

“The biggest thing is not doing harm, right?” she said. “Not doing harm to yourself and not doing harm to your kids. But how do you do that? I think you have to be honest, and so that’s what we did.” 

She told the girls about Breonna Taylor, and that she was killed by the police.

Needing to have these conversations is very disheartening, she said. 

“You’re having to have this conversation generation after generation, after generation. And I think that’s when the hopelessness starts to creep in,” said Randolph. “I’ve heard it in the voice of my parents and now here I am having this with my children. When do I get to stop having these conversations?”

Randolph, a performing arts teacher at Mill Creek Leadership Academy, says that while these times have been overwhelming, she is trying to practice having patience for herself and her children. Like Gills, she says that she tried to take breaks when she recognizes that she needs them.

By having more patience within herself and her kids, Randolph said she has learned one simple thing. 

“I think the biggest thing is still just letting them be kids.”

University of Massachusetts Medical School psychologist and executive director of the Child Trauma Training Center, Dr. Jessica Griffin, says that while children may not fully comprehend events like Taylor’s death, they understand right versus wrong and fairness.

“We teach our kids to use your words when you’re upset about something or use your words to express when things aren’t fair. That’s kind of like what we’re doing with protest,” Griffin said. “But sometimes people aren’t listening… and kids are aware of that.”

Kids learn from watching adults, Griffin said. One way to help them is to help yourself.

“You’ll hear a lot now, about the importance of self-care, for parents, for teachers, for all of us. And we don’t mean that to sound cliche but it is really important that we’re putting our own oxygen mask on first, as parents, before assisting our children,” said Griffin. 

Griffin says that children can experience direct and second-hand trauma from their caregivers — as early as in the womb.

“If their primary attachment figure, a person that they rely on to meet their needs, is impaired with in some way or is being mistreated themselves, that also affects that child,” said Griffin. 

Unavoidable, But Treatable

Kniffley says that for people of color, racial trauma is unavoidable. Racial trauma is “the water that we are all swimming in,” said Kniffley.

”Because we are not the perpetrators, nor the builders, of systems of racism, it requires a collaborative effort to dismantle these systems,” he said. “It’s hard to tear down a house that you haven’t built in a neighborhood that you are forced to live in.”

But Kniffley recommends three things that can help alleviate that burden: children need performative spaces to express their Blackness, safe places to have conversations about their emotions, and to be taught how to navigate experiences of racism and discrimination.

J.J.’s mother is already using some of these strategies; J.J. says he’s grateful that mental health care and conversations are welcomed in his house.

“My mom, she talks about everything.. We have the longest conversations… most of them end with us in tears. Our conversations really bring us together more than anything.”

But for many Black families, resources such as therapy or counseling may not be accessible nor culturally acceptable. Kniffley says that throughout American history, medical professionals — including psychologists — have exploited communities of color and added to this distrust. Because of this, skepticism about mental health care in communities of color continues.  

Within his own neighborhood, J.J. says he knows that some families don’t practice mental health care like his does.

“I wish I could have conversations with kids who are not as ‘woke,’” he said. “As soon as the pandemic is over, I would love to talk to kids who don’t really know about it; I would love to become a mentor.” 

Even though J.J.’s mom sometimes worries how her children will digest the events of the world, she believes that honesty is the best way to address things.

“I know that we want to shield them and withhold information for their good. But you’re not,” said Gills. “We have got to get to that place where we can be communicative with our kids because the kids they’re paying attention, they’re listening, and they’re taking it in.”

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Metro Council Narrowly Rejects Buffer Zones For Health Care Facilities Thursday, Aug 20 2020 

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Metro Council Democrats failed to reach a compromise to pass an ordinance giving health care facilities the option to create a buffer zone near their entrances.

Advocates have pushed for such a zone around the EMW Women’s Surgical Center on Market St. for years. Outgoing councilman Brandon Coan (D-8) led the charge on this ordinance, which would apply to other health care facilities as well. He pinned its timing to the COVID-19 crisis.

This is an ordinance about public safety and public health, people have the right to safe and dignified access to legal health care services, he said, adding that it was not about debating the ethics of abortion.


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After Civil Unrest Like May Protests, LMPD Must Analyze Its Response. It Hasn’t Tuesday, Jul 28 2020 

Ryan Van Velzer

Police fire tear gas and pepper balls on protesters after seven were shot in downtown Louisville on May 28,2020.

The final days of May were a whirlwind of protests, violence and vandalism in downtown Louisville that upended the city and set the tone for months of civil unrest that continue today.

In the span of four days, protesters demanding accountability for the police killing of Breonna Taylor were doused with tear gas, pelted with pepper balls and arrested en masse by Louisville Metro Police. Seven people were shot in a still-unsolved incident in the middle of the protest, just steps away from Metro Hall. The National Guard was called in to help LMPD keep the peace and ended up fatally shooting David McAtee.

By June, the city’s central business district was busted up and boarded. The police chief was fired. And downtown was a perennial protest zone.

LMPD’s policies require an analysis of the agency’s response as soon as possible once “the disturbance has been brought under control” following events of civil unrest, like those that transpired in late May. Such a review, known as an after-action report, is considered a key element for critiquing tactics, and can help improve strategies, develop efficiencies and build public trust. 

But LMPD hasn’t done any “after-action reports” related to the protests, according to a department spokesperson. And as time passes, memories of these tumultuous days will fade, and lead to the perception that accountability is not a priority, according to policing experts and local leaders. 

According to LMPD policy, the reports should focus on operational concerns, problem areas and the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire response. The reports should recommend methods for improving departmental operations, and policies to prepare for future incidents. 

Without them, officers may feel like they have a license “to do what you want, because there’s not going to be a report,” said Samuel Walker, an emeritus professor at University of Nebraska-Omaha’s school of criminology and criminal justice. 

For police, it’s necessary to create a comprehensive record of how the agency responds to critical incidents, such as a weekend of violent clashes with protesters: waiting too long to review the weekend, or analyze it, could jeopardize the agency’s ability to accurately document what occurred, and determine if policies were followed and assess whether crowd-control strategies were effective, he said.

“This is particularly important when you have injuries or death,” Walker said. 

State Rep. Attica Scott attended the protests on Friday, May 29. It was the second night of protests, and hundreds gathered in downtown Louisville to protest the police killing of Taylor, a Black woman who was killed by LMPD officers executing a search warrant at her home. 

Scott, a Democrat whose district includes downtown, St. Mathews and west Louisville, said the events were peaceful until police began blanketing the crowd with tear gas.  

“It was chaos,” she said. “The police turned it into chaos.”

Now, nearly two months later, Scott said it “makes no sense” that police have yet to analyze their response to the protests during those days in late May.

“To me, it says that LMPD has no interest in learning from their mistakes, that they have absolutely no interest in acknowledging where they have gone wrong and they have absolutely no interest in making sure that they don’t make the same mistakes moving forward,” she said. “That’s why you analyze your actions, so you can learn from them.”

An LMPD spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for an interview about the lack of after-action reports. It’s unclear if any after-action reports have been completed for later protests following those days in May. But emails related to a records request from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting shed some light on the agency’s records related to the protests.

KyCIR asked LMPD on June 1 for the after-action report for the preceding weekend’s protests. The agency responded to the open records request last week, stating they had no such reports.

KyCIR also requested the agency’s Incident Action Plan for protest events in late May, which would detail the agency’s strategies, goals and tactics for their response. LMPD spokesperson Alicia Smiley said in denying that request that releasing such information would “directly affect the vulnerability and LMPD’s counterterrorism/antiterrorism protective measures and plans” and put officers at risk of violence.

Smiley also said the LMPD has “intercepted multiple plans between violent demonstrators that includes ambushing law enforcement officers at staging locations and known response routes.”

“Violent demonstrators” have accessed police radio communications “so they may evade and attack officers as they move in real time,” Smiley said in an email to KyCIR.

Police have not reported that sort of attack by protesters during the civil unrest, though police have said demonstrators threw water bottles filled with urine and at one point police claimed to have seized unknown flammable substances. Protesters have also vandalized government buildings. Numerous protesters, however, have claimed they were assaulted by police without provocation during their arrests.

After-action reviews should not be overlooked by agency leadership because they help improve public trust — and can lead to “smarter thinking and therefore more effective execution,” according to a report published this year by the National Police Foundation, a non-partisan organization based in Arlington, Va. that aims to improve policing through innovation and science.

The report said that after-action reports should be conducted immediately after an incident and shared with responding agencies to communicate  “promising practices, lessons learned, and areas for shared improvement.”

Presently, police departments across the country are facing widespread and continued protests, as well as the fallout that stems from the global COVID-19 pandemic, which together create a unique set of challenges that could impede their ability to conduct in-depth, comprehensive reviews of critical incidents, said Keith Taylor, an adjunct assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Taylor, a former assistant commissioner with the New York City Police Department, said after-action reports are certainly valuable, and necessary. But he said it’s not surprising if they fall to the wayside as agencies deal with the stresses of policing during a pandemic and the workload that comes with ongoing protests.

“It’s quite a chaotic time,” he said.

Additionally, Taylor said current ongoing investigations into incidents that occurred during the first weekend of protests in Louisville could impede the completion of after-action reports. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Kentucky State Police are conducting independent investigations of the June 1 fatal law enforcement shooting of McAtee.

Not completing the reports, however, could also hamper the ability to investigate and review the totality of the police department’s response to protests, said Louisville Metro Council President David James. He pointed to an investigation underway by the Metro Council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee that will focus on the killings of Breonna Taylor and McAtee, as well as the related protests.

The reports, he said, would help council members get a clear understanding of what took place during the first week of unrest, James said.

“Those documents would be important,” he said. “You need documentation to see what did or did not happen.

James, a Democrat and former LMPD narcotics detective, said after-action reports are commonplace and are routinely completed by LMPD. He was surprised to hear no such report had been completed to analyze the events in late May.

“It doesn’t seem logical,” he said. 

Walker, the Nebraska policing expert, pointed out the scope of the protests and the magnitude of their intensity — there were shootings, mass arrests, claims of police brutality, and widespread vandalism that went largely unchecked for hours as buildings were damaged and property destroyed. Those incidents make it all the more important to complete the required analysis of the events and the agency’s response, he said, a task he considers routine police work. 

And even though protests and civil unrest in Louisville have been constant since late May, there have been moments of relative calm.

“It’s in that quiet period that you do your report,” Walker said. 

Scott, the state representative, said police should conduct thorough analysis of every day they are confronting protesters. The final days of May, she said, are especially in need of review due to the magnitude of the events, damage and violence.

Scott saw protests in St. Matthews, but the police response came with no tear gas, no pepper balls, and no arrests. In west Louisville, there were no protests, but the National Guard responded and killed McAtee, a Black man.

“All of that has to be addressed,” she said. “Because they cannot deny there was disparity in the way they treated people based on place and based on race.”

Correction: Samuel Walker is professor emeritus at University of Nebraska-Omaha. A previous version of this story named the wrong campus.

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Search Warrants Under Scrutiny As Police Killings Spark Reforms Wednesday, Jul 8 2020 

The police officers who killed Breonna Taylor came with a search warrant that allowed detectives to raid the 26-year-old’s home without first knocking.

Such warrants — called no-knocks — instantly proved controversial once Taylor’s death was thrust into the national spotlight. The Louisville Metro Council was swift to ban the use of no-knock warrants last month in a unanimous vote.

In practice, no-knock warrants like those solicited for the Taylor search are rare: of more than 6,000 search warrants served by LMPD since 2018, fewer than 1% were no-knocks, according to LMPD data. 

And now, the call to reform the process by which police seek and obtain search warrants from Louisville judges is broadening, sparking introspection and infighting at the courthouse.

Some attorneys, civil liberty advocates and criminal justice experts say the search warrant process lacks transparency, oversight and fairness. But many Louisville judges defend the system, saying a judge’s oath alone binds them to act with integrity and the push for reform is little more than window dressing.

Ted Shouse, a Louisville-based defense attorney, pushed for reform to the broader system of search warrants in an op-ed in the Courier Journal last month. Shouse argued the current system is unnecessarily secret, and gives police an upper hand not afforded to criminal defendants.

Police can call, email or meet-in person with a judge to get a warrant. Officers can take their pick between 30 judges with jurisdiction in the county to present their case for a search warrant. And anecdotally, judges, lawyers and researchers have concluded that officer’s warrant requests are rarely refused — for those that are, there’s no record to show for it and no system to track how or if a request is modified or just presented to another judge for approval.

“All I’m advocating is transparency,” Shouse said in an interview with KyCIR last week. “Why would a judge not want transparency?”

Chief Jefferson Circuit Judge Angela McCormick Bisig said judges are “gatekeepers” and “neutral listeners.” They may be cordial with officers, but they’re not casual and they don’t play favorites, she said.

“We take this responsibility very seriously,” she said. “We try to be transparent.” 

Police Generally Pick Judge

In the aftermath of Taylor’s death, the Louisville Metro Police Department amended its search warrant policy to require officers get approval from their commander before applying for a search warrant. Local court rules and police policy advise police officers to contact court clerks during business hours and be assigned a judge, but that doesn’t always happen, said Chief Jefferson District Court Judge Anne Haynie.

Jefferson District Court

Local District Court rules.

Occasionally, officers will catch a judge in the courtroom or in their office and present their case for a search warrant, she said. Some search warrant requests are processed electronically, via email, said Haynie. After hours, an on-call District Court judge is available 24 hours a day to respond to requests, Haynie said. But officers are not required to contact the on-call judge.

“It’s really just whoever is available,” she said. 

Once a judge receives the affidavit, the review can be quick, said Leland Hulbert, a defense attorney and former prosecutor.

“Typically, what I see is judges are asked in the middle of the day or middle of the night to approve a warrant and they don’t have a lot of time to digest,” Hulbert said. “They are usually signed the day they are presented.”

But now, amid the fallout and outrage from Taylor’s death and the circumstances that led to it, Hulbert believes judges will be more scrupulous in their review of search warrant applications.  More requirements like the creation of an independent warrant review panel or mandating that judges explain, in writing, why they are approving a warrant could further strengthen the process, Hulbert said.

“Just stating that in writing could bring more transparency,” he said.

Bisig said judges can only consider the information included in the affidavit when making their decision to approve or reject an officer’s request and the conversation between judge and officer has no basis in the ultimate decision.

The affidavits are included in court files, and can be subject to review by judges and defense attorneys once a case begins crawling through the criminal justice system.

“We’re not trying to hide anything here,” Bisig said. 

Still, Shouse, and others, say documenting that interaction is a critical step towards transparency.

“These conversations, however brief they may be, are critical to the criminal justice system,” he said. “Why not have that brief exchange between a police officer or a judge available? What’s the argument against it?

“The system, as it exists now, affords zero transparency,” Shouse said.

Getting details about search warrant requests can be cumbersome, if not impossible. The courts don’t maintain a database of search warrant requests, and in turn, there’s no record of search warrants requests that are rejected by a judge.

Shouse thinks judges should be randomly assigned to officers who come seeking a search warrant. Judges are randomly assigned in criminal and civil cases, which are heavily documented from beginning to end. But when it comes to search warrants — which can be an intrusive tipping off point for allegations that pull people into the criminal justice system — no such requirements exist.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Charles L. Cunningham penned a rebuke of Shouse’s call for reform in his own op-ed in the Courier Journal last week. In it, Cunningham dismissed the notion that police “cherry pick” judges when they need a search warrant approved.

“Judges are not anyone’s rubber stamp,” he said.

He said assigning a judge at random to approve a warrant would be cumbersome, and clog the schedules of both police and judges.

“Judges don’t just sit around waiting for the police to show up,” Cunningham said. “We often can’t drop what we are doing to hear a warrant application. The police have to hunt for a judge who will make the time to hear them. Some judges dodge this task; some make the time.”

But Cunningham is open to some reform. In an interview with KyCIR last week, he said a welcome improvement in the search warrant process would be to develop a tracking system to monitor which warrant requests are denied, and what becomes of them.

Cunningham said it’s impossible to know if an officer who failed to get approval goes on to gather more evidence, or simply walks down the hall to another judge. Keeping a record of when a judge rejects a warrant could quell any concern that law enforcement effectively go judge shopping when they need a warrant, he said.

“Would it stop them from shopping around? It would definitely stop it,” he said.  “Would that somehow fix a problem? That’s a much tougher question.”

A spokesperson for LMPD did not respond to a request for comment for this report.

Judges Say New Process Would Be Prohibitive

Haynie says a randomized process that only allows one judge at a time to issue warrants could be a barrier for law enforcement and a burden to the criminal justice system.

Jefferson District Court

Chief Jefferson District Judge Anne Haynie

The 17 judges presiding over district court deal with crowded dockets of misdemeanor crimes and traffic offenses, as well as weddings, arrest warrants, emergency protective orders and more, she said.

“You just don’t know how busy people are during the day and you don’t want warrants just sitting there,” Haynie said. “I could not fathom being on a heavy docket and having to break that docket and spend time on a warrant.”

Limiting the pool of judges available would be “just window dressing,” according to Jefferson Circuit Court Judge McKay Chauvin. He said each judge took an oath to uphold the rule of law, and that requires scrutinizing warrants equally and fairly, without consideration to their own beliefs or bias.

“Constitutionally, every judge is the same,” he said. “If there is a problem with a judge, this is not how you solve it.”

Not Everyone Agrees

Jefferson District Court Judge Julie Kaelin doesn’t think the oath alone is enough to ensure public trust or accountability.

“I don’t think that we are so special that we are infallible,” she said.

Kaelin supports documenting interactions between judges and the police that come seeking a warrant. The mere perception of judge shopping is concern enough to welcome reforms to boost transparency and oversight, she said.

“There is no reason to not make it a more transparent process,” Kaelin said. “I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to.”

Police can execute a search warrant at any time of day. They can bust down doors, seize property, and make arrests. The raw intrusiveness of government prying into the private lives of people is so great the U.S. Constitution provides protections against it — and yet, police searches are key elements of evidence gathering, said Kate Miller, advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. But obtaining and executing search warrants shouldn’t come at the cost of people’s civil rights.

“It’s such an important right to be able to be secure in your own home,” Miller said.

Even as calls to ban no-knock warrants echo nationwide, experts say wider reform would be a struggle. Search warrants are an ingrained aspect of policing, and their immediacy can be crucial to securing evidence and catching suspects.

Getting buy-in for change on how police obtain warrants would be difficult, says Damon Preston, the chief public defender for Kentucky’s Department of Public Advocacy. But he thinks some reform is necessary, and one way to hold police and judges accountable would be to require more transparency.

“At the least they should provide data, reports,” he said.

Nationally, little data exists detailing the scope or use of search warrants, said Trevor Burns, a research fellow at The Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank based in Washington D.C. This is partly by design, he said: Prosecutors and police are not always keen on disclosing the strategies of their crime fighting.

But the process to get a warrant in Louisville is not unusual, Burns said. Since police are only required to prove probable cause, a low evidentiary bar, they typically present true, simple facts to a judge, Burns said. The question lies with how much scrutiny a judge is willing to give to a warrant request, he said. 

Oftentimes, it’s not much, Burns said.

“Judges just trust police,” he said. “It’s hard to think of a situation where the judge will give hard scrutiny to a warrant.”

Contact Jacob Ryan at jryan@kycir.org.

The post Search Warrants Under Scrutiny As Police Killings Spark Reforms appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Why Black Women Like Breonna Taylor Still Need ‘Say Her Name’ Movement Monday, Jul 6 2020 

Kate Howard

George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are depicted in this mural by Damon Thompson.

In the days after Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police, she was labeled as a “suspect” by Louisville Metro Police and the media. The case drew some attention — but it didn’t really take off until more than two months later, after the videotaped police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis outraged the nation.

When Black Lives Matter protests spread across the nation, it was Floyd’s name the protesters chanted.

Not in Louisville.

“Say her name!” they chanted over and over. “Breonna Taylor!”

Floyd’s death helped to spearhead months of protests against police violence, and in its wake, new attention was paid to Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman and ER tech killed by LMPD officers on March 13. Soon, with the help of #SayHerName social media hashtags, Taylor’s name and story were at the forefront nationwide alongside Floyd’s. 

Alicia Keys, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tracee Ellis Ross and Queen Latifah have participated in a PSA campaign by the justice group Until Freedom asking the viewer one poignant question: Do you know what happened to Breonna Taylor?

By what would have been Breonna’s 27th birthday, protesters from Louisville to Brooklyn and around the world were saying her name. Even Beyoncé penned a letter to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, urging him to charge the police officers who killed her.

But Taylor’s story highlights an issue activists, advocates and academics have studied and reckoned with for years: Why are Black women’s stories of police brutality not highlighted with the same intensity of Black men? Why does it seem harder for stories like Taylor’s to catch fire?

‘She’s Black and she’s a woman’

On March 13 in the early morning, Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were home sleeping when LMPD officers executed a no-knock warrant in her apartment. Startled by the entry and mistaking them as intruders, Walker shot at police, who shot back and hit Taylor eight times. LMPD claims they entered on the belief that they’d find evidence related to a drug investigation because an ex-boyfriend, the target of their investigation, had received a package there. They did not find any drugs.

In an interview with NPR, Taylor’s family described her as a loving person who became an emergency medical technician in order to care for others. The family told NPR it lifts them up to know her story is being heard, and they’re “grateful that her name is where she should be.”

But that took time. Louisville author, blogger, and activist Hannah Drake said she was sharing information about Taylor’s case on her Twitter feed for a while. But it wasn’t getting traction.

“Breonna just had two things working against her: She’s Black and she’s a woman,” said Drake. 

But after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd and his death gained national attention, Taylor’s name and story followed. 

“If I asked you right now to tell me four Black men that were killed by the police, you may know four, probably more than four,” she said. “But now if I tell you to tell me four Black women that have been killed by the police, you’re going to say, ‘Sandra Bland’ at best.”

Drake believes that’s because of a hierarchy of importance in America: “white men, white women, Black men, and then at the bottom, Black women.” 

However on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram the hashtag #SayHerName and #SayHerNameBreonnaTaylor has helped to add circulation of Taylor’s name and story. 

The #SayHerName campaign was launched In 2014 by the African American Policy Forum and Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies to uplift the stories of Black women who have experienced police violence.

While stories of male Black victims like Eric Garner or Michael Brown have received mass attention, the campaign sought to bring the same attention to Black women like Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Atatiana Jefferson, and now, Breonna Taylor.

“I always explained to people this isn’t a competition between Black men and Black women who suffered the most,” said Drake. “This is a campaign for awareness because often our stories are overlooked.”

The Norm 

No comprehensive national database exists that captures rates of police use of force according to a 2018 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights titled, “Police Use of Force: An Examination of Modern Policing Practices.”

The report states that while Congress has required the Department of Justice to release annual reports on police force local police departments aren’t required to submit their data to the DOJ. 

“The majority of the more than 17,000 police departments in the United States only selectively report data and some do not report at all,” according to the report. 

The report does conclude high rates of use of force nationally, and “increased likelihood of police use of force against people of color, people with disabilities, LGBT people, people with mental health concerns, people with low incomes, and those at the intersections of these groups.”

In 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced that it would be launching the National Use of Force Data Collection. The database allows police departments to voluntarily submit data about use of force for a nationwide perspective. According to a Washington Post article only 40% of police departments submitted data. 

Since it’s not federally mandated, the work of tracking police brutality often falls on nonprofit organizations, activists and the media. 

University of Florida professor and critical race theorist Michelle S. Jacobs has been researching the ways in which Black women are viewed in criminal law and American society as early as slavery and onward. 

Her work uses past literature, political discussions, judicial opinions, and more to examine how Black women are viewed. She identified three consistent tropes and stereotypes; that Black women are “not women” or “womanly.” That Black women are liars, and — perhaps most relevant to the Say Her Name movement — that Black women are not really victims. 

“These stereotypes really add the very foundation of how our nation has developed its understanding of how Black women exist. And from the beginning, we have never existed in their minds as people who are worthy of protection of the law or human beings who are entitled to dignity,” said Jacobs. 

Ava Thompson Greenwell, a video journalism professor at Northwestern University, believes one reason that Black women’s stories are not told as often in the mainstream media is due to largely white newsroom leadership. Black press tends to be run by Black men, she said.

”People tend to cover people who are like them,” Greenwell said. “Black women don’t fit into any of those categories; they’re not white men, they’re not Black men, and they’re not white women, so they’ve really been disregarded historically.” 

Taylor’s case faces another disadvantage: the officers who executed the search warrant at her home weren’t wearing body cameras, and so there’s no footage of the moments leading up to her death. Meanwhile, the video of the police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck has been viewed millions of times, and led to widespread condemnation even from law enforcement. 

In Taylor’s case, the police’s story and witnesses’ stories didn’t match on several details, such as whether officers knocked and announced themselves before entering and whether her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, knew they were police before he fired a shot in self-defense.

“It’s almost like if it wasn’t on video these days, it didn’t quite happen, right? Because then it’s going to be the police officers word versus yours,” said Greenwell. 

Greenwell notes that a lot of younger adults tend to increasingly get their news from social media or non traditional outlets, and with Floyd’s video circulating media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, awareness of his story grew rapidly. 

The Change 

Ryan Van Velzer

The crowd outside Metro Council before it banned no-knock warrants.

In recent weeks, Breonna’s Law has been passed and signed by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. The ordinance bans no-knock warrants like the one used in Taylor’s killing. Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) have also fired one of the three officers involved in Taylor’s death; no progress has been reported about the other officers. During the course of this, LMPD was also under scrutiny for behavior and leadership.

“I spoke at that rally, and I celebrated the fact that the law was passed,” said Drake. “So now it’s no more no knocks in the city. Great I said, but it’s always hard that it came from the back of a Black woman’s death,” said Drake. “A Black woman has to die for this city to do the right thing.” 

Despite the changes that have occurred, University of Louisville Department chair of Criminal Justice Cherie Dawson-Edwards said the case highlights the need for more attention to be paid to police policy reform. 

“There’s problems with police officers, but there’s also problems with policies and processes that allow you to do things that end up with a Breonna Taylor,” said Dawson-Edwards. “I think that’s what we are grappling with and have to come to grips with as a community is, are you mad at the person or the policy that allowed the person to do what they did?”

Dawson-Edwards believes that more policies will be created around racial justice but worries about the intersectionality of future proposed legislation. 

“I worry about gender-related justice and racial justice not meeting together for Black women and Black girls,” said Dawson-Edwards. 

Nation Grieved A Health Care Worker 

Taylor’s case raises another issue about representation that hits the intersection of socioeconomic status and race: Drake says the one factor working in Taylor’s favor in terms of public perception was that she was a health care worker on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In other words, in some people’s eyes, Taylor was a sympathetic victim.

“One thing I want America to get out of this is that every victim will not look like that,” said Drake. “You have to feel sorry for her and grieve because she was an EMT… and that’s honorable.”

But Drake asks: what if, like some other Black women killed by police, she hadn’t fit the mainstream depiction of sympathy? 

“America still needs to be outraged,” Drake said. 

The coronavirus pandemic may have played a role in the initial lack of attention on Taylor’s case, as Kentucky was just beginning to shut down. But it also may have accelerated the activism that followed in the Black Lives Matter movement. 

During times of quarantine and a global health pandemic, more people are at home watching the news and on social media, Drake noted. Protests have occurred in all 50 states and internationally at a time when record numbers of Americans are out of work.

“I think what happened with the coronavirus is that many people were home and they weren’t in the business of life and going to work,” said Drake. “It was like the world paused for a minute.”

But despite all this, Drake doesn’t see this as a turning point. 

“No I don’t, I have to be honest,” she said. “I think women, particularly Black women will always continue to fight to be heard and fight to be seen, always.”

And even if this is a sign of a change, she said, she is still sad that it came at the cost of Breonna Taylor’s life.

The post Why Black Women Like Breonna Taylor Still Need ‘Say Her Name’ Movement appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Meet The Teen Leading This Kentucky Town’s Discussion Of Racism In Appalachia Tuesday, Jun 23 2020 

The courtroom was silent as 19-year-old Dayjha Hogg approached the lectern at a Letcher County fiscal court meeting, stared down a panel of county magistrates, and spoke. 

“I know COVID’s going around right now, so just imagine, there’s no COVID, normal society, and imagine you walk around and it’s like you have the plague.”

Hogg is biracial, and her entire county leadership is White. The Berea College student gripped the lectern to steady herself, and continued. 

People look at you and it’s almost as if, if they stare too long, if they breathe the same air, they’re scared that they’re going to catch the plague. That is just a small, small glimpse of what it was like growing up here in eastern Kentucky as a minority.”

Conversations about police brutality and racial equity are happening across the nation, and rural communities are no exception. 

In Letcher County and Whitesburg, its county seat, a racial reckoning is unfolding that is at once peculiar to this rural Appalachian community and inextricably tied to the one unfolding across the nation. 

This reckoning came after a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Whitesburg. 

Hogg helped organize the protest, and she had been a little afraid not many people would show up. But roughly 200 people attended in a town of just 1,800 —  in a county where 80% of the vote went to Donald Trump in 2016. Democratic State Representative and U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker visited from Louisville to speak at the Friday evening event. 

“It was amazing before and afterwards,” Hogg recalled. “We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, we pulled it off, we really did it!” 

But the following Sunday, the county’s highest elected official, Judge-Executive Terry Adams, posted on his personal Facebook page denouncing the local event and the national Black Lives Matter protests. 

“This is a strange new world we live in today!!!” the executive wrote. “You have a small group of far leftists who want to stir the pot on racism that rarely exists anymore but in their minds. Then you have the majority of the people that have common sense that get pushed into a corner on these nonsense issues.” 

“I believe the ones that are always pulling out the race card are the racists,” he said, comparing those who wanted to remove Confederate statues to Hitler. 

Dozens of people commented on the Facebook post, defending Black lives, defending Confederate statues, debating whether looting was justified. 

When Hogg saw the post, her heart sank. She wasn’t surprised, she said — she had lived with racism all her life. But this time, something was different: Her White friends, even White people she barely knew, stood with her.

At the regularly scheduled fiscal court meeting the next day, about 20 Letcher Countians filed into the bare and echoey courtroom. For a local governmental body that primarily concerned itself with paving roads and repairing water lines, it was an unprecedented crowd, and it touched Hogg that they had shown up in her defense. 

The soft-spoken judge-executive looked uncomfortable as he brought the meeting to order. 

“I suppose you all are here because of the Facebook post I posted,” Adams said. “I’m sorry if anything I said offended you. I’m just one man.” 

And he ceded the floor. 

“This is my hometown, so all my life I’ve always empathized with everyone around me,” Hogg said. “I’ve always understood, they’re just uneducated, this is how they were raised, this is how they grew up. But today I have these people here supporting me and wanting me to speak up. And for years, me and my family, and so many people in the Black community, have had to hear these derogatory terms and take them, and accept them, and lay down with them, and day by day it belittles you until you feel less than anyone in your community.” 

Hogg shared the daily discrimination she faced in school, saying that her mother always tried to speak to the principal about it, but Hogg wouldn’t let her. Hogg knew that if she was seen protesting the abuse she faced, she would be accused of playing the race card to get special treatment. She said whenever the cafeteria had watermelon, she never took a slice, because it wasn’t worth the taunts she would receive. 

“If I have to rip open a scab, dig into an old wound because my friends are here to support me and that’s what it takes to prove that there is racism in Letcher County, then that’s what I’m willing to do.”

Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

Letcher County Judge-Executive Terry Adams faced criticism after a Facebook post that was critical of Black Lives Matter protests.

Letcher County is 98% White, according to the 2018 American Census Survey, but art and media about Appalachia too often erases the experiences and contributions of Black Appalachians and Appalachians of color. It’s too easy, Hogg said, for racism and discrimination to be swept under the rug. 

Tanya Turner, a local White resident and a co-host of the popular Trillbilly Workers Party podcast, also spoke, asking the court to remedy the damage caused by Adams’ post. 

“I think since words have been used by people on this court to divide people, I hope that there are some real solid actions taken by this court to change that narrative,” Turner said. “This court could release a statement of solidarity in support of Black lives. That is the minimum that we could do.”

The court has not yet released such a statement. 

Small-Town Policing 

Turner also raised concerns about the police presence, a touchy topic in the small community. 

“This is a town with six police officers, yet there were probably 20 police officers downtown Friday night [at the protest,]” Turner told Adams and the other magistrates. “Now, I don’t know why that was, or what the expectation was, but that did not make people feel safe.” 

While protestors in many cities, including Kentucky’s largest city of Louisville, have been met with tear gas and rubber bullets, the Whitesburg protest was held with the blessing of local police chief Tyrone Fields, who is biracial.

Still, heads turned when Turner finished speaking and Fields stood up from a bench in the back of the courtroom. “May I follow up, please?” he asked the judge-executive. 

Whitesburg had four police officers, actually, he corrected Turner, and he had called in help from other local forces to make sure all the streets to downtown were blocked off after other peaceful protests in Kentucky and around the country faced aggression from right-wing counter protesters. 

But Fields also wanted to take a stand. 

“It’s safe to say that George Floyd was ⁠—  and I’ll say this as the chief of police ⁠— it’s safe to say that he was murdered. We do know that. They might as well have hung him from a tree. Any police officer that thinks he was not murdered should immediately turn their badge in.” 

Adams Responds

Following nearly two hours of comments from the community, attendees reiterated their demands for a statement in support of Black lives and for members of the court to denounce the words of their superior. One by one, each magistrate said he or she disagreed with what Judge-Executive Adams had written. 

Adams finally responded with “I’m sorry if I offended you.” 

One woman, who had been silent for the duration of the meeting, interrupted. “I’m sorry, I just have to. You’re saying you’re sorry if you offended anyone, but are you sorry for what you actually said?”

Adams repeated the same statement, so I pushed him on it in his office a few days later, on Juneteenth. 

He chose his words carefully. 

“I’ve got a son that’s got Down Syndrome,” he explained. “And after I get to thinking about that, people say things that sometimes bother me because of him. And I could see the same thing in racism now.” 

He became emotional, swallowing back tears. 

“If I’ve hurt people’s feelings, I’m sorry. I should not have brought what’s national, going on nationally, and combined it with people wanting to speak out locally.” 

Hogg doesn’t think Judge Adams really gets it, but she says the conversation was productive. For now, Hogg says, that feels like justice. 

“This little town is making big moves, just like all these other places,” she said. 

Behind This Story

Sydney Boles produced this story as part of the America Amplified initiative using community engagement to inform and strengthen local, regional and national journalism. America Amplified is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

Q: What did the people you talked to say about the experience of being interviewed for public radio?

With the exception of Judge-Executive Adams, who seemed very uncomfortable having me in his office, everyone I spoke to for this story was elated to share their experience confronting racism in their hometown. Dayjha Hogg, the protagonist of this piece, said something that stuck with me: “I never thought my experience was that important or interesting, but now with all these other people listening to me, I guess it must be.” 

Q: What surprised you about this type of community engagement?

It was joyful! The majority of the stories any journalist writes are negative— which makes sense. It’s our job to make sure people know what’s going on in their communities, whether it’s political corruption, environmental harms, or any number of things. But when the status quo is the silent tolerance of injustice, joy becomes newsworthy.

Q: What lessons do you have for others who want to do the same?

Local governance meetings remain a timeless method of taking the pulse of your community.

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