Racial Injustice Breonna Taylor

Protesters march during the Good Trouble Tuesday march for Breonna Taylor on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Louisville, Ky.

(The Center Square) – The family of a Louisville woman killed as police officers executed a controversial search warrant will receive $12 million from the city, Mayor Greg Fischer said Tuesday.

In addition, as part of the settlement with Breonna Taylor’s family, the city has agreed to enact several law enforcement reforms designed to improve relations between residents and the police.

With Taylor’s mother in the audience for the announcement, Fischer apologized for her death. However, he later told reporters the agreement does not mean the city admitted any wrongdoing. Rather, he said, it’s an indication reforms and a settlement needed to happen.

“Her death has ignited a movement in Louisville and the nation for racial justice, sending thousands into our streets and in cities all across the country and the world – all crying for justice for Breonna and triggering a renewed commitment to addressing structural and systemic racism in our city and our country,” he said.

Among the reforms to be enacted include housing credits for officers to live in certain communities within the city. The police department will also agree to retain social workers to assist on certain calls, and the department will encourage officers to volunteer their time within the community.

Other reforms include changes in how warrants will be approved and changes in protocol for seizing money. The city also agrees to negotiate with the police union on changes to the contract next year. That includes guaranteeing each officer is tested for drugs at least once a year and determining what records may be maintained in personnel files.

The city also will change how investigations on officers are conducted. If an officer leaves the force before the investigation is completed, it will no longer be closed. Instead, it will now have a letter with the chief’s remarks based on the current evidence and the investigation may continue.

“These are significant policy changes,” Fischer said.

Taylor, 26, died on March 13 from gunshot wounds as police officers tried to enter her apartment. As they tried to knock down the door, her boyfriend shot, claiming he did not hear the officers identifying themselves. Officers claimed they did that even though they received a no-knock warrant as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation.

One officer was shot in the leg, and while the boyfriend was initially indicted, those charges were dropped.

The city ultimately decided to fire one of the officers involved in the case, and demonstrators have been calling for the others involved to be dismissed from the force as well.

Taylor’s death occurred right as the COVID-19 pandemic led to shutdowns in Louisville and other communities across the country. However, when George Floyd’s death in late May sparked protests against law enforcement abuses, similar demonstrations started in Louisville in Taylor’s name and continue more than six months after her death.

Before Tuesday’s historic settlement, some reforms already had been enacted. In June, the city’s Metro Council passed “Breonna’s Law,” which prohibits no-knock warrants and requires officers to activate body cameras when any warrant is being served.

With the settlement with the city announced, Taylor’s family and their lawyers are now focusing their efforts on the potential criminal case against the officers. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is leading that investigation at the state level, and federal authorities are reviewing the matter as well.

“As significant as today is, it's only the beginning of getting full justice for Brianna,” said Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother. “We must not lose focus on what the real drive is. And with that being said, it's time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more.”

Last week, Cameron issued a statement saying his office remains committed to finding the truth and pursuing justice, but he refused to give a specific time frame for when his office’s investigation will conclude.

Ben Crump, one of the lawyers representing the Taylor family, called on Cameron’s office to indict the officers on manslaughter charges at least.

“Nothing will ever fill the bottomless void left by the death of Breonna Taylor,” Crump said in a statement. “This settlement, with the significant reform, ensures that her death has meaning and long-term impact – hopefully preventing the deaths of other Black lives.”