FRANKFORT – (KT) Law enforcement issues and reforms were the topics of discussion by the General Assembly’s Interim Joint Local Government Committee at a meeting on Tuesday.
Specifically, chokeholds, defunding police, decertification of officers and no-knock warrants were all addressed.
Owensboro Police Chief Art Ealum, who is president of the Kentucky Police Chiefs Association, told the lawmakers, “We strictly believe that chokeholds should be banned in most situations. However, there are times when an officer is fighting for his life, and that‘s the only tool that is available to him.”
When it comes to defunding the police, Ealum said, “Defunding the police department, and putting those resources elsewhere, actually takes away from the communities that we serve. We are here to serve and protect our communities, and if we defund police departments, where 80 percent of the costs go to personnel, you are going to lose bodies or lose valuable training.”
He urged the panel to consider putting more money toward law enforcement training, “because it is much needed, especially during this time.”
Ealum also recommended the General Assembly consider strengthening the 2018 law dealing with decertification of police officers. “We think this is a great opportunity to make sure that bad cops can’t get terminated from one agency and move on to another.”
No-knock warrants should only be used in extreme circumstances, he testified. “In cases that are a matter of preserving human life in a hostage-type situation, only should they be utilized. Never to retrieve drugs or prevent the loss of drugs.”
More than just officers should be involved in getting a no-knock search warrant, Ealum stated. “We need to include judges and prosecutors in this discussion, because the judges have to sign off on the warrants.”
He pointed out Owensboro has not used a no-knock warrant in at least 15 years.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, says he is in the process of drafting legislation for the 2021 session to restrict the use of no-knock warrants, and noted one of the limitations used by the federal government. “They don’t generally let you serve warrants of any type, under their rules and guidelines, after 10 p.m. or before 6 a. m, unless there are some type of exigent circumstances.”
He says his proposed bill would not allow a stand-alone no-knock search warrant. “They could be used as a secondary tool to something else that is the primary purpose of a police officer. They also should be done by individuals who are trained to go into those types of tactical situations.”
Stivers said if his legislation had been in effect, the death of Breonna Taylor at the hands of Louisville Metro Police might not have taken place. “I think if this had been in place, and if it had not been done as a stand-alone search warrant at 1 o’clock at night, we would not be in the circumstances that we currently are in this state.”
Stivers said he has had many discussions with people surrounding the incident, in which Taylor’s boyfriend thought someone was trying to break into the residence and fired a shot, wounding one officer. Police returned fire and Taylor was shot to death.
The police said they were trying to serve a no-knock warrant because they believed there were drugs inside. No drugs were ever found.
Stivers did not say when his draft proposal would be ready to be made public.
(By Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)