RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam was joined by family members of Breonna Taylor on Monday morning for a ceremonial signing of ‘Breonna’s Law,’ which will ban no-knock warrants in Virginia starting March 1, 2021.
Taylor, a 26 year-old EMT, was shot and killed in her home in March during the execution of a no-knock search warrant by police in Louisville, Kentucky.
Northam said Virginia is the third state to prohibit the controversial tactic and the first to do so since Taylor’s death earlier this year.
“Virginia is leading the way on policing reforms like this one, which will make our communities safer and our criminal justice system more fair and equitable,” Northam said. “While nothing can bring back Breonna Taylor, and so many others, we honor them when we change laws, when we act to right long-standing wrongs, and when we do the work to make sure more names do not follow theirs.”
Taylor’s aunts, Bianca Austin and Tahasha Holloway, flew in for the ceremony. Austin said she hopes the Kentucky legislature will follow Virginia’s example.
“We are so honored for these gestures and these laws but let us not forget that Breonna Taylor still needs justice,” Austin said. “Justice for Breonna Taylor is making sure that these officers are fired, arrested, charged and convicted.”
Civil Rights Lawyer Ben Crump, who represents the Taylor family, thanked lawmakers for “standing up” for her legacy.
“The constituency of Breonna Taylor’s legacy will be made state by state and the policy defining Breonna Taylor’s legacy will be cast vote by vote. Her name will be remembered throughout the history of United States of America,” Crump said.
In a special session largely focused on police reform, Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-Chesterfield) and Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) sponsored the ban on no-knock warrants. As women of color, both said introducing the legislation was personal and that its passage is a win for racial equity in policing.
“Black women and black girls, their lives do matter,” Aird said.
Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard, president of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said no-knock warrants were already ‘extremely rare’ in the commonwealth.
Even so, DeBoard has concerns about the sweeping ban passed by the General Assembly. She said she would’ve supported the idea if lawmakers allowed judges to approve exceptions in extreme circumstances.
“There are circumstances where you’re dealing with violent individuals that you know are highly armed and you need access to that tactic to control the situation,” DeBoard said.
DeBoard said her biggest concern is with the requirement that warrants be served during the day, even though the law allows judges and magistrates to make exceptions in certain circumstances.
DeBoard said, since serving warrants at night is common, this change could cause regular delays in time-sensitive situations.
“This is the one bill that I lose sleep over,” DeBoard said. “The administrative requirements that they have put in place are dysfunctional and they’re going to create significant safety concerns for our officers and our community.”
Virginia Sheriffs Association Executive Director John Jones said lawmakers could amend the law in the future if it turns out to be too restrictive.
“Let’s implement the bill. Let’s see how it goes and if there is a need to come back we can address that with the General Assembly,” Jones said.