‘We must not lose focus’: Louisville to pay $12 million to family of Breonna Taylor, but officers not yet charged

"No amount of money can bring justice. It's time to move forward with the criminal charges that Breonna Taylor's family has called for."

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SOURCECommon Dreams

After months of demonstrations against police violence following the March killing of Breonna Taylor by law enforcement personnel in Louisville, the city has agreed to pay her family $12 million dollars and implement a handful of police reforms—but reaction to Tuesday’s news has been mixed because none of the three officers who shot the 26-year-old emergency medical technician during a no-knock narcotics raid have been criminally charged. 

The family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, believes it is “the largest settlement ever reached for a black woman killed by a police officer in the U.S.,” according to PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.

As the Louisville Courier Journal reported, attorney Lonita Baker—another member of the family’s legal team—said at a press conference that the police reforms included in the settlement were designed to “engage police officers within the community, not just when they’re dispatched.” 

According to the Courier Journal, changes include:

  • Early action warning system to identify officers with red flags;
  • Mandatory commanding officer review of all search warrants;
  • Mandatory body camera counting from two officers of all currency seizures;
  • Mandatory written approval of SWAT matrices before search warrants are executed;
  • Encouraging officers to perform at least two paid hours a week of community service in the communities they serve;
  • Housing credits for officers to live in certain low-income census tracts in the city;
  • Hiring a team of social workers to assist with dispatched runs; 
  • Commitment to bargain for increased drug and alcohol testing in the next FOP contract;
  • Overhaul of processes for simultaneous search warrants;
  • Mandatory EMS/paramedic presence for all search warrants; and
  • Elimination of the “closed by exception” basis for closing investigations into officer conduct when there is a retirement or resignation.

However, neither the city nor the police admit any wrongdoing in the settlement, the newspaper reported. 

Baker noted that “justice for Breonna is multi-layered,” adding that the settlement represents “only a portion of a single layer.”

Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and several observers also made it clear that justice had not yet been served. 

“We must not lose focus on what the real job is,” said Palmer at a press conference. “It’s time to move forward with the criminal charges.”

Shaunna Thomas, executive director of UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy group, said in a statement:

While the Taylor family’s settlement with the City of Louisville is an important step toward closure and healing, we will not be placated or pacified until there is justice for Breonna Taylor. That means firing, arresting, and prosecuting the police officers responsible for murdering Breonna Taylor and shifting the city’s financial priorities away from policing communities and towards investing in them. UltraViolet stands in solidarity with Breonna Taylor’s family and activists from Black Lives Matter Louisville.

Public defender Scott Hechinger noted that across the U.S., taxpayers spend billions every year to “pay for the fallout from police abuse, violence, murder,” yet cities are reluctant to redirect public money away from policing and toward more socially beneficial housing, education, and job programs.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said on social media that “justice delayed is justice denied.” Clarke added that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron must prosecute Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove—the officers responsible for killing Taylor. 

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said: “No amount of money can bring justice. It’s time to move forward with the criminal charges that Breonna Taylor’s family has called for.”

“She deserves that and much more,” Taylor’s mother added. 

The Courier Journal reported that a Jefferson County grand jury, which would decide whether criminal charges ought to be filed against any of the three officers, may hear the criminal case as early as next week.  

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