Ky. Reps. Attica Scott, Lisa Willner unveil bills to protect protesters, de-militarize police

FILE - In this March 2, 2020, file photo, state Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, speaks on the...
FILE - In this March 2, 2020, file photo, state Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. Felony rioting charges were dropped Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, against the Kentucky lawmaker and others arrested last month during protests demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File)(Bryan Woolston | AP)
Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 9:55 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - State representatives Lisa Willner and Attica Scott announced Sunday new legislation would be filed in an upcoming session that is looking to protect the safety and legal rights of protesters.

In a news conference held outside Carl Braden Memorial Center on West Broadway, the representatives spoke on the three new bills that would be filed Monday in the Kentucky House of Representatives for consideration in the Kentucky General Assembly.

The bills are seeking protection for protester’s rights to assemble, as well as limiting intimidating and harmful tactics used by law enforcement.

“The Louisville Metro Police Department’s response to last year’s Breonna Taylor protests made it abundantly clear that the law must change,” Rep. Willner said. “Peaceful protestors were needlessly tear-gassed and shot at with rubber bullets; the media and other observers were harassed for recording officers’ actions in public; and many protestors were charged with crimes they simply did not commit, as we saw in the case of my colleague, Representative Scott, her daughter and many others. These bills are designed to prevent these types of actions from happening again.”

Representative Scott, along with her daughter and a group of other protesters, were arrested back in September following the night of the grand jury’s decision of the Breonna Taylor investigation. Felony charges were dropped in October, and all other charges were dropped in November.

“We expect our police officers to enforce the law, not use it as another weapon against those they are sworn to serve and protect,” Rep. Scott said. “I am proud to partner with Representative Willner as the prime co-sponsor of these bills and look forward to seeing them enacted with my own Breonna’s Law, which would ban no-knock search warrants and make law enforcement more accountable when serving warrants or when officers are involved in a deadly incident.”

The first bill introduces provisions against the militarization of police force, which are outlined below:

  1. Ban law enforcement agencies from receiving such military surplus equipment as armored and/or weaponized drones, combat-ready aircraft, military-grade surveillance equipment, armored vehicles and grenade launchers.
  2. Require de-escalation and crisis-intervention training for law enforcement that is equal to the number of hours for deadly force training.
  3. Clarify that use of rubber bullets, tear-gas and long-range acoustic devices are only justifiable when a law enforcement officer “believes that such force is necessary to protect another person from imminent serious physical injury or death.”
  4. Outlaw the use of kettling, which occurs when law enforcement corrals a crowd it wants to control into a closed-off space and refuses to let it disperse.

The second bill clarifies that it is not unlawful to record, livestream, or photograph members of law enforcement in the public performance of their duties. Officers would not be authorized to stop the recording or arrest the person recording if that is the only action they are performing.

The third bill would further add clarity to the charges of riot and unlawful assembly within Kentucky statutes. The bill would seek for a riot in the first-degree charge to become more specific stating “five or more people who knowingly engage in violent or unlawful behavior causing a public disturbance that creates a substantial imminent risk of property damage or physical injury.”

Other guest speakers at Sunday’s announcement included Matthew Kauffman, a 2019 Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year candidate who participated and was arrested in protests last year, Keturah Herron, policy strategist with the ACLU of Kentucky, and attorney Ted Shouse.

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