The Washington Post - USA (2020-09-16)

(Antfer) #1



The city of Louisville an-
nounced on Tuesday a $12 million
settlement with the family of Bre-
onna Taylor and a number of
changes in how local officers ob-
tain and execute search warrants,
among the largest payouts for a
police killing in the nation’s his-
Louisville police killed T aylor,
26, while executing a “no-knock”
search warrant at her apartment
during a drug raid in March that
uncovered no illegal substances
and has become a driving symbol
in the Black Lives Matter move-
The settlement, which follows
a wrongful-death lawsuit that
Taylor’s family filed in May, re-
quires police commanders to ap-
prove all search warrant applica-
tions that are submitted to a
judge, Louisville Mayor Greg
Fischer (D) said during a news
conference Tuesday afternoon.
Louisville police will also have to
conduct extensive risk assess-
ments before applying for a war-
At least two officers now will be
required to have their body cam-
eras turned on when money
seized during an investigation is
impounded, counted or pro-
cessed, Fischer said. In an effort
to bolster the police department’s
ties to the community, officers
will be given up to two hours per
week of paid time for community
service, and the department will
explore incentives for officers to
live within certain low-income
areas of the city.
The city also has agreed to hire
more mental health experts and
pair them up with officers who
respond to calls, Fischer said.
“This settlement is of mutual
interest,” Sam Aguiar, an attorney
for the Taylor family, said in an
interview Tuesday. “The city was
able to afford this level of justice,
and Breonna Taylor’s mother has
been adamant from day one that
reform was needed to reduce the
likelihood that no other family
has to endure this type of tragedy.”
The settlement follows weeks

of private talks between the two
parties, Aguiar said.
“This is probably the largest
settlement for police misconduct
in the history of Louisville and
includes substantial police re-
form as well,” he said.
The settlement does not in-
clude an admission of wrongdo-
ing by the city or the police offi-
cers involved in the raid, Fischer
Lonita Baker, another attorney
for the Taylor family, said her
clients did not plan to file addi-
tional lawsuits.
“Today alone is not enough,”
said Jefferson County Attorney
Mike O’Connell. “I hope this
agreement is the next step in
bringing a more just Louisville. A
more just Louisville is the medi-
cine we need to heal.”
Settlement amounts in fatal
police shootings vary widely. In a
2015 Washington Post account of
awards in civil lawsuits, payouts
ranged from $7,500 to $8.5 mil-
lion. Last year, the city of Minne-
apolis settled a lawsuit with the
family of 40-year-old Justine
Ruszczyk Damond, who was shot
by an officer after calling 911
about a possible crime, for
$20 million.
Some of the highest-profile
deaths in police custody in recent
years have resulted in settlements
around $6 million. New York City
in 2015 resolved a lawsuit with the
family of Eric Garner, an un-
armed Black man who died after
being put in a police chokehold,
for $5.9 million. Baltimore agreed
to pay $6.4 million to the family of
Freddie Gray, who died a week
after suffering a severe spinal in-
jury while handcuffed in a police
van. And the city of Cleveland
settled a lawsuit with the family of
12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was
shot while playing with a toy gun
in a park, for $6 million in 2016.
Louisville’s settlement with
Taylor’s family will not affect the
ongoing investigation by Ken-
tucky Attorney General Daniel
Cameron (R) of whether the offi-
cers who raided Taylor’s apart-
ment should face criminal charg-
es stemming from her death. The
Justice Department is also inves-

Louisville agrees to pay

$12 million to family in

Breonna Taylor’s death

tigating the case.
The Taylor family attorneys sig-
naled they would continue their
demands that criminal charges be
filed. Attorney Benjamin Crump
called on Cameron to charge the
officers involved in the raid “im-
mediately, this week” with, “at the
very minimum, second-degree
manslaughter charges.”
“Justice for Breonna Taylor is
multilayered,” Baker added.
“What we were able to accom-
plish today through the civil set-
tlement against the officers is
tremendous, but it is only a por-
tion of a single layer.”
Activists who have been pro-
testing Taylor’s death for months
said they, too, would keep calling
for criminal charges.
“No amount of money will
bring back Breonna Taylor. We
see this settlement as the bare
minimum that one can do,” Until
Freedom, a New York-based
group that has been heavily in-
volved in making Taylor’s case a
defining symbol of the racial jus-
tice movement, said in a state-
ment. “True justice is not served
with cash settlements.... We
need accountability. We need jus-

At the news conference, Until
Freedom co-founder Tamika Mal-
lory demanded that Fischer fire
all of the officers involved in Tay-
lor’s killing if Cameron’s office
does not indict them. Fischer de-
clined to make that promise.
Experts, meanwhile, expressed
skepticism that the announced
policing overhauls were as signifi-
cant as officials portrayed them to
Geoffrey P. Alpert, a criminolo-
gy professor at the University of
South Carolina, said he was sur-
prised that Louisville police did
not already require commanders
to approve warrants and provide
incentives for officers to live in
the city. Those policies are com-
mon practices in police depart-
ments across the country, he said.
“If they’ve never had that in
Louisville, this is going to be a big
improvement,” said Alpert, who is
also a co-author of “Evaluating
Police Uses of Force.” “This is
going to be meaningful. It’s just
shocking or a shame that this is
new to Louisville.”
Eugene O’Donnell, a professor
at the John Jay College of Crimi-

nal Justice, said he doubts that
the changes in how search war-
rants are carried out will make
people safer in police raids. He
said the best solution is for police
agencies to execute fewer search
warrants, especially when they
deal with nonviolent crimes such
as drug investigations.
“You can candidly have a con-
versation with the community
and say, ‘Those days are over, and
we don’t do that anymore,’ ”
O’Donnell said. “Going into a
stranger’s home, who may have a
firearm, is going to be dangerous,
especially in this environment
where policing is three times as
O’Donnell added that a reform-
minded police department
should be looking for ways to
reduce “physical-force policing.”
He said the public, and increas-
ingly police themselves, are seek-
ing out solutions that involve few-
er face-to-face encounters be-
tween officers and suspects.
“People are demanding an end
to violence... and a lot less
policing,” O’Donnell said. “If you
know who these people are, you
can identify them, you can submit

evidence to court, you can ask
them to surrender and seek their
Taylor was killed March 13,
when plainclothes police officers
carried out a “no-knock” search
warrant at her home shortly after
midnight as part of a drug investi-
gation. Taylor was asleep at the
time, according to the family law-
Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walk-
er, 27, who was also at the apart-
ment, fired a shot with a gun he
legally owned and later said he
thought the officers were intrud-
ers. The officers shot back, and
Taylor was struck five times.
The officers said they identi-
fied themselves before forcing in
the door to Taylor’s apartment
with a battering ram, but Taylor’s
family disputes that claim in the
lawsuit. Police did not find drugs
at the home.
Although Walker was initially
charged with the attempted mur-
der of a law enforcement officer,
the charges were dropped. Louis-
ville has since banned the use of
no-knock warrants.

A painting of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by police at her apartment in March, is displayed a t a Louisville park last month.



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