Christian Lohrenz ® Colunmist |
Cartoon by Luis Ortiz ® Cartoonist |
Last week, charges were against Sgt. Brett Hankison in Louisville, KY in connection with the shooting death of Breonna Taylor.
The charges, however, were for “wanton endangerment” of the neighbors during the raid that resulted in Taylor’s death. The incident has led to a whirlwind of protests and continued calls for police reform. Upon reviewing the case the grand jury ruled the officers had been justified in protecting themselves, which essentially did not allow them to be charged with criminal charges.
Earlier this month Taylor’s family came to a settlement with the city of Louisville, ending a civil suit, in which the city awarded the family a $12 million payout and agreed to a handful of police reforms, such as a clearer process for executing search warrants. This settlement does not admit any wrongdoing on the part of the police or the city, however, and prevents the family from pursuing legal action in the future.
Meanwhile, demonstrations have lasted in the city for over 100 consecutive days. Many are calling these charges and settlements not enough. The death of an innocent black woman at the hands of the police comes during a summer already fueled by discussion of police reform following the death of George Floyd. These demonstrations have called for strong reactions to the officers involved in the killing of Taylor and are calling for murder or manslaughter charges.
While in many cases it appears individual departments and state and local governments are going to be responsible for creating any kind of legislative reforms within police departments on a state level, there has been a lack of movement from the federal government so far. While there is a limit to their power on a state level, there is inevitably a point of vocal power that federal officials have in helping sway the opinion of the public and state officials.
Currently, there are bills in congress working to ban using chokeholds and “no knock” search warrants during drug cases. These bills have some support on both sides of the aisle and have called for a limit or prohibition of federal grant money to departments unless they adopt the proposed changes.
The presidential candidates have weighed in on the case as well. President Trump hailed the Louisville decision and voiced support for the Kentucky Attorney General who appeared at the Republican national convention recently. Trump has been regularly tweeting the policy of “law and order,” calling himself the law and order president. This phrase was previously coined and used by the Nixon administration in the late 1960s.
Democratic candidate Joe Biden has been quoted saying Americans “must continue to speak Breonna Taylor’s name.” Biden and Harris’s campaign has often voiced support for police reforms around excessive force and no-knock warrants. The Biden ticket is also calling for criminal justice reform, trying to reduce the number of people incarcerated on drug charges, and restructuring a system they see as rooted in racial and income-based disparities.
In the wake of the decision discussions rage on. Discussions like this are of the utmost importance in American politics. To be the best country in the world, we must continue to discuss with each other and work to better ourselves in ways that we see fit.
Breonna Taylor may not have received the justice that her or her family deserved, but the movement does not appear to have given up and has continued to #SayHerName.