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Council, FOP shenanigans on no-knock warrants shows how hard police reform will be

·3 min read
Emma Anderson cries after speaking to the council in support of the ban of no-knock warrants at the Lexington Fayette Urban County Council meeting on June 24, 2021.

In the end, enough of them listened.

Ten Urban County Council members listened and heard. For three and a half hours, they sat in silence as 36 people begged, implored and demanded the council to bring an end to a year of painful discussions and ban no knock warrants.

Jamila Green described the trauma she felt as a 12-year-old watching Eric Garner die at the hands of police, and how much fear she still has that her door will be broken down. Activists DeBraun Thomas and Russell Allen described their pain and trauma after their work to move the Confederate Statues out of Tandy Park. It was a triumph that would become “a hollow moment,” Allen said, if the kind of no-knock warrant that killed Breonna Taylor was allowed to continue in Lexington.

Several speakers had come to council for other reasons, but felt compelled to address council. “You can make a stand for something better,” said Jessie Bollinger.

The 10-5 final vote almost, but not quite, smoothed over the shenanigans that went on beforehand. The nasty social media blast by the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, which continued on even after the vote Thursday night. Earlier in the week, FOP attorney Scott Crosbie got the Fayette GOP to pass its support of no-knock warrants, another pressure point on what’s supposed to be a nonpartisan council. And then there was council member’s Preston Worley’s “eleventh-hour bait and switch,” as speaker Reva Russell English, incandescent with rage, described it. The amendment was actually a replacement ordinance to keep no-knock warrants with one or two more layers of approval attached. Other descriptors of the amendment included “disrespectful, shameful, disappointing, insincere, spineless,” well, you get the idea. That the amendment only lost by one vote, 8-7, reminds us as Clark Williams of the Black Faith Leaders said last night, “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Speaker Emily Moseley noted: “I don’t know how you can stand there listening to all these people telling these stories and then vote for this amendment.”

But while Preston Worley listened, he did not hear. He persisted in calling his replacement a compromise. Preston Worley, who learned politics at the feet of his daddy, former state Sen. Ed Worley, can continue his political rise with the backing of the FOP, but his maneuvering at this moment won’t be forgotten.

Council member Susan Lamb heard. Many were shocked when the normally progressive Lamb voted against the ban in the first reading. But her constituents convinced her otherwise. Many of them told her to “follow my heart.” and she did.

As Mayor Linda Gorton said after the 10-5 final vote, “This is democracy in action. I’m very proud of our city because we have all taken the time to listen, now it’s time for our community to come together. “

This should have been easy. That it took this much time and passion to get rid of one small policing tool shows just how quickly we move to our corners these days, ready for a fight to the death. It’s not a good sign for much larger reforms — police, hiring, gentrification — requested by the Commission on Racial Justice and Equality. We all need to do a lot more listening. And then prove we heard.

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