Breonna Taylor's Family Just Got a $12M Settlement. Here's What That Means for the Police.

The Louisville Metro Police Department also agreed to mandatory use of body cameras in future raids.
September 15, 2020, 7:09pm
A mural for Breonna Taylor is painted on a construction fence near the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, June 14, 2020.
A mural for Breonna Taylor is painted on a construction fence near the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, June 14, 2020. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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The family of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old EMT worker killed in a botched no-knock raid in March, has agreed to a record $12 million settlement with the city of Louisville — one that will include substantial, lasting changes to policing, including the mandatory use of body cameras during police raids.

The settlement over the family’s wrongful death lawsuit is the largest in Louisville history, topping the previous high of $8.5 million awarded to a man in 2012 after he spent nine years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

In addition to the settlement, the city agreed to sweeping reforms to the Louisville Metro Police Department that they hope will prevent another incident like the one that killed Taylor. The settlement also won’t end any of the open investigations on the shooting or affect the potential for criminal charges against officers involved. So far, only one of the three officers involved, Brett Hankinson, has been fired for the botched warrant, while the other two were placed on administrative leave.

“It’s important for her family to minimize the risk of what happened to Breonna Taylor from happening to any other family in Louisville, Kentucky, and we’re going to continue the fight beyond Louisville,” the Taylor family’s attorney Anita Baker said in a press conference Tuesday.

The reforms include implementing a system meant to weed out problematic officers with a history of misconduct, mandatory approval of all search warrants from police leadership, housing credits for officers who choose to live within Louisville, and mandating the presence of emergency medical personnel when police execute a raid.

One of the more important changes is the mandated use of police body cameras during police raids, which Mayor Greg Fischer had already agreed to increase for certain officers in specific scenarios in May.

Early on in the investigation, Louisville police notably said there was no footage of the night Taylor was killed, despite evidence that at least one of the officers involved wore a body camera during other investigations. Bodycam video of the March 13 shooting would have helped create a timeline of what happened during the raid, including how long Breonna went without medical attention after the cops shot her.

Other reforms include:

  • ending the police department’s ability to close an investigation when an officer retires or resigns
  • permanently retaining complaints and investigations against police officers in their records
  • mandating written approvals of the factors included in SWAT team risk assessments before search warrants are executed
  • encouraging officers to perform at least two paid hours of community service every two weeks
  • hiring a team of social workers to assist police officers on duty
  • committing to bargain for increased drug and alcohol testing of police

The family’s attorney also made it clear that the settlement would not be the end of their search for justice.

“Justice for Breonna Taylor is multilayered,” Baker said Tuesday. “We are not going to stop our cause 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. We know that that indictment is coming from the grand jury.”

Both the FBI and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron opened investigations into the shooting over the summer. The FBI was seen last month analyzing the apartment where Breonna was killed. Cameron’s office, on the other hand, said the investigation is progressing but has not yet said when he’ll announce his findings.

“An investigation, if done properly, cannot follow a specific timeline,” Cameron, a Republican, tweeted last week. “My office has endeavored since Day One to find the truth and pursue justice, wherever that may take us and however long that may take.”

The officers involved in the case could also still face criminal charges, as protesters have demanded.

“The settlement that Louisville reached with Ms. Taylor’s family should not in any way impact the proceedings,” Michael Kahn, the director of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told VICE News. “These things typically operate completely independently.”

Kahn said the only way that a settlement typically impacts these proceedings is if the party on the receiving end of the city’s wrongdoing is on the stand and cross-examined during a trial.

“Obviously, in this case, that would not be an issue,” he said, as Taylor would not be here for the proceedings if a criminal case were to move forward.

If a criminal trial does move forward, the Louisville Metro Police Department will have to answer for a number of discrepancies in its account of the raid, including why body camera footage of the shooting did not exist. The department also said they had no knowledge that a second person might be in the apartment the night they executed the no-knock warrant, even though police documents later obtained by VICE News show that officers knew someone else might be there that night — along with a handgun.

Roberto Ferdman contributed to this report.