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With Breonna Taylor's family in attendance, Virginia governor signs bill banning no-knock warrants

Posted at 8:19 AM, Dec 08, 2020

NORFOLK, Va. — With members of Breonna Taylor's family on hand, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill into law Monday that banned the use of no-knock warrants, a controversial police tactic that has been the subject of criticism across the country since Taylor's death in March and amid the monthslong protests against police brutality.

"We are taking a step forward to make sure other families don't suffer the same loss," Northam said.

In March, Taylor, a health care worker in Louisville, Kentucky, was fatally shot by police in her home while a "no-knock" warrant was being served at her apartment. While no officers have faced charges in connection with her death, city lawmakers have already outlawed the use of such warrants in Lousiville.

"We can't have this continue to happen to African American women and men," State Senator Mamie Locke, D-District 2, said.

Two of Taylor's aunts from Louisville were on hand for Monday's ceremony as Delegate Lashrecse Aird, D-63rd District and Locke joined Northam to sign the legislation they had sponsored.

In Virginia, judges and magistrates can no longer issue a no-knock warrant. According to Northam's office, the Commonwealth is the third state to ban this practice and the first state to do so since Taylor's death.

"There have been a couple of cases years ago where sometimes the officers make the mistake and go to the wrong house and they don't announce [themselves], and the residents return fire and it's a bad situation," Richard James said.

James spent almost 30 years as an officer and detective with the Norfolk Police Department, and he is the former department head for criminal justice and forensic science at Tidewater Community College.

James says the new law protects citizens.

"It also lets a person know who is woken up in a slumber that it is not someone breaking into the house," he said.

It also protects officers as well, but James says it can be a challenge for police now when they are trying to protect themselves from an actual threat.

"[They are going to need to ]make sure they have additional steps to make sure they are safe, and it's going to take some practice and training," James said.

Gaylene Kanoyton is the political action chair for the Virginia state conference NAACP. The group has been advocating for police reform, and the no-knock warrant was at the top of their list.

"As Sen. Locke said, why do we have to wait for someone dies to be proactive?" Kanoyton said.

She says the work doesn't end here.

"That feels great, but we still have a long way to go," she adds.

This story was originally published by Nana-Séntuo Bonsu on WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia.