- The Louisville city council unanimously voted Thursday to ban law enforcement in the city from implementing “no-knock” warrant strategies.
- Mayor Greg Fischer has said he will sign the law immediately once it hits his desk.
- The law, known as “Breonna’s Law,” comes after 26-year-old EMT Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police in her own home after they served a search warrant by allegedly entering her apartment unannounced.
- Also on Thursday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced he would be proposing a similar bill federally to ban the use of “no-knock” warrants across the country.
Louisville Bans “No-Knock” Warrants
The Louisville city council unanimously voted Thursday night to ban law enforcement from engaging in “no-knock” warrants following unrest over the death of Breonna Taylor.
Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, died on March 13 when police entered her home in the middle of the night to serve a warrant. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, reportedly mistook the police as robbers because they allegedly failed to announce themselves. He then grabbed his gun and fired at police who returned fire, killing Taylor.
Walker, who survived, was originally charged with attempted murder of an officer, but that charge was later dropped in May. None of the three officers involved in the incident have faced any charges for Taylor’s death, but they have been placed on administrative leave.
Under the new law, known as “Breonna’s Law,” Louisville Metro Police will be required to announce themselves when entering homes. They will also be required to wear body cameras while serving warrants, with cameras being turned on for five minutes before and turned off no sooner than five minutes after the search. Notably, the officers who killed Taylor did not wear body cameras.
Breonna’s Law comes after Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer temporarily banned no-knock warrants on May 29. Following the city’s decision on Thursday, he said he would sign Breonna’s Law as soon as it hit his desk.
“[I] wholeheartedly agree with Council that the risk to residents and officers with this kind of search outweigh any benefit,” Fischer said on Twitter. “This is one of many critical steps on police reform that we’ve taken to create a more peaceful, just, compassionate and equitable community.”
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, remembered her daughter on Thursday as she spoke to reporters about the bill’s passage.
“Breonna, that’s all she wanted to do was to save lives,” Palmer said. “So with this law, she’ll get to continue to do that. So we’re grateful for that. She would be so happy.”
Outside of the chamber, crowds cheered for the bill’s passage through city council.
Rand Paul Announces Similar Federal Bill
Also on Thursday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a bill in Congress that would effectively outlaw the use of no-knock warrants throughout the country. Paul said he proposed that law, known as the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, after conversations with Taylor’s family.
Under that law, all federal law enforcement, as well as state and local law enforcement receiving funds from the Justice Department, would be affected.
Palmer praised Paul’s bill on Thursday, telling the Courier Journal, “I think it’s just the beginning, but I’m definitely satisfied.”
“I definitely think it will help families after mine,” she added.
Breonna Taylor’s Death and Fallout
The night Taylor died, police were engaging in a narcotics investigation.
While neither Taylor nor Walker had any prior drug arrests or convictions, a judge granted officers’ request for a “no-knock” warrant to search Taylor’s apartment. This is because police believed a primary suspect in their investigation had received packages at her address.
No drugs were ever uncovered at Taylor’s apartment, and the primary suspects in the investigation were said to have been more than 10 miles away from her location.
The police involved have claimed that despite being allowed to enter Taylor’s apartment unannounced, they still knocked on the door before using a battering ram.
“‘Police! Please come to the door. Police! We have a search warrant,'” Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly said while recounting the events of that night during a police interview.
Both Taylor’s family and multiple neighbors have disputed this claim. Similarly, Walker’s attorney said Walker only fired a shot because he did not know police were the ones breaking down the door.
Walker told investigators that he believed the person on the other side of the door was a former boyfriend of Taylor’s and that Taylor twice asked “Who is it?” but heard no answer. As police continued to batter down the door, Walker said both he and Taylor continued to ask who was there, with Taylor asking “at the top of her lungs.”
Taylor’s family, who’s sued the Louisville Metro Police Department, has called her death an execution.
Strong outcry following her death has led to a number of protests across the country. After the subsequent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in rural Georgia and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Taylor’s death became one of the major rallying points at protests calling for an end to police brutality and institutionalized racism within law enforcement.
There have also been widespread calls to fire and charge the three officers who entered Taylor’s apartment that night— Sgt. Mattingly, Officer Brett Hankison, and Officer Myles Cosgrove. Fischer has said the city cannot terminate the officers while investigations are ongoing.
On May 21, the FBI launched a federal investigation into Taylor’s death.
New Incident Report Is Nearly Blank
On Wednesday, Louisville police released the incident report from the night Taylor died—nearly three months after it took place. Notably, that report was almost entirely blank.
The four-page report lists Taylor’s injuries as “none,” even though she was reportedly shot at least eight times.
Under charges, it lists “death investigation — LMPD involved;” however, it also checks “no” in the box marked as “forced entry.”
The narrative of the report, which is meant to recount the events of that night, only contains two words: “PIU investigation,” for Public Integrity Unit.
“This is unacceptable,” Fischer said on Twitter. “It’s issues like these that erode public confidence in LMPD’s ability to do its job, and that’s why I’ve ordered an external top-to-bottom review of the department.”
Following criticism, the police department claimed errors in the report were a result stemming from when the reporting program created a paper file.
“Inaccuracies in the report are unacceptable to us, and we are taking immediate steps to correct the report and to ensure the accuracy of incident reports going forward,” the department said in a statement.
See what others are saying: (Courier Journal) (CBS News) (WKLY)
Biden Issues Targeted Eviction Moratorium for Counties With High Community Transmission
While more limited than the previous eviction ban, the new policy applies to all areas with “substantial” and “high” COVID transmission, which currently includes 80% of counties that compose 90% of the population.
New Eviction Ban
Three days after the federal eviction ban expired, the Biden administration issued a new, more limited moratorium that will extend until Oct. 3.
Unlike the last freeze, the latest version announced Tuesday only pertains to areas of the country experiencing what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled “substantial” and “high” cases of COVID-19.
However, the rule still applies to the majority of the country given the new surges driven by the delta variant.
According to the CDC, 80% of counties that make up 90% of the population are currently experiencing substantial or high community transmission.
While not a full ban, many housing still advocates cheered the Biden administration, which has faced immense pressure to help the millions of Americans who risked losing their homes once the previous freeze expired.
“This is a tremendous relief for millions of people who were on the cusp of losing their homes and, with them, their ability to stay safe during the pandemic,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday.
Still, others noted that there are outstanding issues with the new policy.
First and foremost, while the moratorium covers most Americans, it does not cover all. According to reports, there are counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York that are protected from evictions while neighboring counties are not.
The county-to-county patchwork also adds another layer of confusion for many people who are on the brink of eviction or who have already been evicted.
Tenants and landlords are now scrambling to see if the freeze applies to them, and because of the temporary lapse in protection, evictions resumed in some states and cities, meaning that some people who would now be covered under the ban have already been evicted.
Perhaps the most notable obstacle is the fact that the new moratorium will almost certainly face legal challenges.
The Biden administration previously argued that it did not have the jurisdiction to extend the eviction freeze unilaterally, citing a recent decision from the Supreme Court, which ruled that the CDC could not extend the ban past July and that Congressional action was needed.
Three days before the moratorium was set to expire, Biden asked Congress to pass legislation to extend it before leaving for their August recess. Republicans blocked the effort by unanimous consent, and Democratic leaders, frustrated with the president’s last-minute demand that left them with few options, said they did not have enough support for a formal vote.
Biden, for his part, has acknowledged that any freeze that comes from his administration would face this obstacle.
“Any call for [a] moratorium based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision is likely to face obstacles,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve indicated to the CDC, I’d like them to look at other alternatives [other] than the one that is in existence, which the court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.”
Any legal proceedings, however, will take time, meaning Congress could act before any disputes are resolved. The extended timeframe would also give state and local governments more leeway to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental aid approved in the last two stimulus packages.
Only $3 billion of the funding has been distributed due to the numerous delays and hurdles municipalities have faced while struggling to create new systems to dole out the much-needed aid.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CBS News)
Virtually All Emperor Penguins Doomed for Extinction by 2100, Study Finds
The new study comes as the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service moves to submit a proposal Wednesday to add the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species.
Concerns for Emperor Penguins
Nearly all of the world’s emperor penguin colonies may be pushed to the brink of extinction by 2100, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology.
More specifically, researchers behind the study said 98% of the colonies could be gone in the next 80 years if climate change continues causing sea ice to melt at its current pace. About 70% of colonies could die off by 2050, it added.
That is pretty huge news because Emperor penguins — the world’s largest penguin species —are a vital part of the Antarctic food chain. They prey on krill, squid, and small fish, and provide a source of food for leopard seals and killer whales.
However, the birds are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they depend on sea ice for viral activities like breeding, feeding, and molting, along with resting or seeking refuge from predators.
U.S. Moves To Protect the Species
The new study comes as the U.S. government considers adding the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to build off this new research, along with other data, for its proposal on Wednesday. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be open to a 60-day public comment period.
If the classification is granted, the species would receive protections, including a ban on importations of the birds for commercial purposes.
“These penguins are hard hit by the climate crisis, and the U.S. government is finally recognizing that threat,” Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, told the Associated Press.
“Climate change, a priority challenge for this Administration, impacts a variety of species throughout the world,” said Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the wildlife service. “The decisions made by policymakers today and during the next few decades will determine the fate of the Emperor penguin.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (AP News)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.