After the Breonna Taylor settlement ‘Our people demand rest, joy, solidarity, interdependence and freedom’

The city of Louisville made a record, $12 million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor. The agreement includes police reforms but does not indicate the city admits wrongdoing when police officers broke down her door ostensibly looking for drug money or drugs and found none. The state attorney general is deciding whether charges will be brought against the officers.

Under the settlement, policing changes include:

— Creating a system to identify early at-risk officers.
— Requiring a commanding officer to review all search warrants.
— Asking officers to undertake at least two paid hours a week of community service where they serve.
— Giving officers credits to live in certain low-income areas of the city.
— Creating a social worker team to help on runs.
— Committing to bargain for increased drug and alcohol testing in the next FOP contract.
— And requiring the presence of EMS/paramedic during the execution of all search warrants.

From the press conference announcing the settlement, here are the words of Tamika Palmer, who is Breonna Taylor’s mother; Lonita Baker, one of the Taylor family lawyers; Tamika Mallory, a leader of Until Freedom, a New York-based social justice group that has organized protests in Louisville; and Keturah Herron, policy strategist with the ACLU of Kentucky.

Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother

“As significant as today is, it’s only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna. 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. Her beautiful spirit and personality are working through all of us on the ground so please continue to say her name — Breonna Taylor.”

Lonita Baker, a Taylor family lawyer:

“Justice for Breonna is multilayered. What we were able to accomplish today through the, through the civil settlement against the officers is tremendous, but it’s only a portion of a single layer. When officers cause the death of an individual, it is imperative that we seek justice not only in the criminal system but also in our civil system. That’s when we hold people financially responsible, but it’s important to know here that a financial settlement was non-negotiable without significant police reform, and that’s what we were able to do today. We sought forth, as we went through negotiating the terms of the settlement and the reform, to engage police officers within the community not just when they’re dispatched to runs but to get out to volunteer in those communities in which they serve, to get to know their communities and other settings, to live within their communities, to dispatch social workers when they’re needed for mental health crises, to recognize at-risk behavior by officers implementing the early warning system and to overhaul the system by which we execute search warrants that caused the death of Breonna Taylor on March 13. It’s important for her family that they minimize the risk of what happened to Breonna Taylor happening to any other family in Louisville, Kentucky. And we are going to continue that fight beyond the city of Louisville, Kentucky and throughout this country to protect and reform police departments across America. We recognize that this reform is not all-encompassing, and there’s still work to be done, and we commit our time, our talent and our resources to continue to work with the community to fight the systemic racism plaguing our city. We will continue to work on behalf and with the protesters who have put their freedom on the line to bring awareness to not just Breonna Taylor but to the systemic problems facing our city, for we know that without their voice we would not be here today. Attorneys will ensure that prosecutors handling the case of protesters truly are administers of justice and not being punitive simply because those individuals chose to use their voice to shine a light on what was going on in Louisville, Kentucky. We look forward to being a bridge from this community to our elected leaders, to continue to push for change. We will continue to push for the mayor’s office and our other elected leaders to implement policies put forth in A Path Forward, which calls for community investment, the support for small businesses, affordable housing, closing the education achievement gap, jobs and workforce development and as an overhaul to the criminal justice system. That document was produced and signed by over 50 organizations in the city, and it needs to be taken seriously. We look forward to working with all the grassroots organizations to ensure that we continue to hold our elected leaders accountable but also to ensure that we continue to work with our elected leaders, because we would not get the policy changes that we need, we would not get to the legal changes we need, if we don’t hold all of you elected leaders accountable. But, in that same vein, we have to work with our elected leaders. The beauty of what happened here today, the reform and the settlement, and again it’s just a civil suit, happens when we work together. So we do thank Mayor Fisher and his team for committing to the reform. This is unheard of in one of these cases where you get a financial settlement and police reform, but, again, it was important to us, to Breonna’s family, to the lawyers involved, and it was important for us to give that back to the community which has been fighting so hard to say Breonna Taylor’s name, Lastly, as I stated when I started: Justice for Breonna Taylor is multilayered. We are not going to stop calls to hold the officers responsible for Breonna’s death accountable. We’re going to continue to put pressure on the Attorney General’s office to present a fair case to the grand jury, and we know that indictment is coming from the grand jury. We have faith that an indictment is coming from the grand jury in addition to the Attorney General’s office. We must remember that the FBI is also doing an investigation into whether there were criminal civil rights violations leading to and after Breonna Taylor’s death, so we’re going to be looking for the federal indictment to come from the Department of Justice as well, but it’s important that people know that the city of Louisville — they’re not the ones that can bring the charges. So today, what we did here was to do what we could do to bring a little bit of police reform, and it’s just a start, but we’ve finished the first mile and a marathon, and we have a lot more miles to go until we achieve and cross that finish line.”

Tamika Mallory, of Until Freedom, speaking at a recent rally. | Photo by Kathryn Harrington.

Tamika Mallory, a leader of Until Freedom, a New York-based social justice group organizing protests in Louisville:

“Justice for Breonna Taylor. And if there ain’t going to be no justice, there ain’t going to be no peace. A settlement is restitution, but it’s not arresting the cops, and we want to say today that the police officers responsible for killing Breonna Taylor must be arrested in order for the community to feel calm. We understand that this is an acknowledgment and a great acknowledgment of the wrongdoing that had happened, and it is important that our community understands what happened here today is very significant. It is significant because, again, there is an acknowledgment of Breonna Taylor’s life and the fact that those officers in this city murdered her. Breonna Taylor has shifted the atmosphere. She shifted it not just here in Kentucky but across the country. The ban on no-knock warrants was where we begin in terms of great reform, and to know that attorney Lonita Baker and attorney Sam Aguiar continue to push for reform in this particular settlement is extremely important, and it cannot be denied we must acknowledge it. The reforms are evidence that the city — unfortunately its police department — has been exposed for some corruption that exists within the department. The significance of this settlement is a small price to pay for our sister’s life, a very small price to pay. They deserve all the money that we can muster up in the world just to help a little bit with the feeling of pain and turmoil that I know exist within this beautiful family, but let us not lose sight on the main focus, as Tamika Palmer has said: The officers Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove, John Mattingly and Joshua Jaynes must be arrested. We cannot forget about Joshua Jaynes, the man who [allegedly] lied on a no-knock warrant application that set police officers charging into the home of Breonna Taylor and Kenny Walker. We cannot forget about any of those officers, and if this police department is to do right by this community, if you know of other officers who were involved, they should be arrested and indicted immediately. Again, the restitution portion is one part, but arresting the officers is what will make this city do right by its citizens and not just Breonna Taylor but all the Breonna Taylors across the city who are afraid sitting in their homes. Because to not have an indictment happen in this city is to say that no matter how much we pay, no matter how much reform we do, we’d rather pay, we’d rather cover it, than to deal with the issue. And so I have to say to you Mayor Fischer — we want to thank you for your leadership, but we want to say that if for any reason these officers are not indicted, that you must instruct your police department to fire every single one of them on the spot. That is called getting justice for Breonna Taylor. Thank you very much.”

Keturah Herron, policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky. | Photo by Kathryn Harrington.

Keturah Herron, policy strategist with the ACLU of Kentucky:

“Good afternoon. My name is Keturah Herron. I’m a policy strategist at the ACLU of Kentucky and member of Black Lives Matter Louisville. I was honored when Breonna Taylor’s family asked me to be here today. I am grateful to Aja Holston-Barber and other members of the movement who helped me prepare my comments for today.

To Breonna’s family, you deserve better than having to fight for six months after officers from Louisville Metro Police Department — some of whom remain nameless — killed your beloved family member. You deserve closure. You deserve rest. You deserve to be cared for and loved on and supported for the rest of your days. I’m grateful you have reached this point of some closure in some of the ways you have asked for.

To Breonna, to her family, to the families of every person who has been violated, abused and killed by Louisville Metro Police Department — I hope enough of us are joining this movement for Black lives to support you and give you a moment to rest, grieve and find routines that fortify you. We promise you that we will keep this fight going and win. We know we are not only fighting against the deadly violence that is integral to policing; we are fighting for a completely different vision of being in community together. We are creating something different.

We are creating a community that no longer invests our tax dollars in people who kill our neighbors. One that no longer needs to spend our tax dollars on settlements that should never have to be paid in the first place. No more.

Instead, we are creating a community that invests our tax dollars in our basic needs as human beings, in our joy, in our wellness. In protecting each other. We are going to create a community where all people are supported by our investments and given the chance to reach their full potential, rather than redlined into disinvested, distant neighborhoods that remain out of sight and out of mind to those on the other side. No more.

We want to end the so-called ‘compassionate community’ that was never actually compassionate. Where people were forced to compete against each other for scarce essential resources, policed for the consequences of what it means to live in scarcity and then killed for our connections to each other. No more.

We are creating a community that finally sees the fruits of our collective labor and invests our tax dollars in ways that nourish us, nurture us, heal us, challenge us and love us. In ways that house us, feed us and make us laugh. This is the community investment that values Black life and that will heal Louisville.

To Louisville Metro Government and all of the complicit decision-makers throughout this horrifying experience, understand that this is not over. We are demanding full individual accountability and institutional accountability.

While the culture of white supremacy has lied to you about what accountability means — let me tell you: Accountability includes self-reflection, repair, apology and changed behavior. Changed behavior means people are no longer incentivized to violate, abuse and kill our people. Accountability means an end to transactions that tinker around the edges.

For years, we have watched as you linger around the edges with our freedom while you go all in with dangerous and wasteful programs that you call investments — from the police budget to the gentrification of our neighborhoods, you have used our own tax dollars to harm us. Our people demand transformation. Our people demand rest, joy, solidarity, interdependence and freedom. Change is here. And it’s the peoples’ to change. And it’s the peoples’ to change.

To my people who are giving so much of themselves to this moment, striving for a better today and better tomorrow; I offer you these words of Harriet Tubman: ‘If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.’ Thank you.”