Ms. Taylor was killed in her home by police March 13 during a botched drug raid. Officers had obtained a “no-knock” search warrant, which allows police to enter a home unannounced. Although officers said they announced themselves before entering, Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend, who was spending the night, said he heard only the commotion of the officers breaking down the door. Fearing an armed invader, he fired a single shot from the firearm he was licensed to carry. Officers returned fire, pumping more than 20 shots into the apartment and into a neighboring apartment where a pregnant woman and a 5-year-old slept. Five bullets struck Ms. Taylor, who bled to death. No drugs were recovered from her home.
After this horrific killing spawned local outrage and garnered national attention, Louisville voted to ban no-knock warrants. Many jurisdictions around the country have followed suit, putting an end to the use of the controversial practice by enacting what is sometimes called Breonna’s Law. In Louisville, advocates say they are still frustrated by what they see as insufficient change. The police chief was fired in June over a separate incident, and many say they are frustrated that only one of the officers who fired shots will face criminal charges.
The settlement with Ms. Taylor’s family includes police department reforms closely related to the tragic circumstances surrounding Ms. Taylor’s death, as well as measures to improve the Louisville police department more broadly. Though Ms. Taylor’s death was partially tied to a specific kind of warrant, the department has agreed to more oversight over warrants in general — commanding officers will be required to review and approve all search warrants. The department will also implement a system to identify officers who repeatedly violate standards, a system that might have flagged one of the officers involved in Ms. Taylor’s killing. The police department also will encourage officers to live in the community and take part in community service.
These are welcome measures that may do much good, particularly if they are accompanied by robust accountability efforts that ensure the reforms aren’t walked back after the national gaze turns elsewhere. Still, there is so much a settlement like this cannot do: It cannot change the fact that Black women too often have lethal brushes with the law, simply because of the company they have once kept; it cannot change the fact that too many cases are ignored, as Ms. Taylor’s case could easily have been without the tireless efforts of advocates; and it cannot bring her back.